Chapter

Late Life in Human Populations

Laurence D. Muller

in Does Aging Stop?

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780199754229
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199896714 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199754229.003.0011
Late Life in Human Populations

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Late life was first detected in human populations, despite the very late occurrence of late life in humans. Recent data from supercentenarians provide strong evidence of a late-life mortality rate plateau in human populations. An important puzzle is why human populations reach late life so late. Two explanations are conceivable, and not necessarily incompatible with each other: (i) a generally increased mortality level under evolutionarily novel conditions due to a lack of time for age-independent beneficial substitutions to increase in frequency; (ii) a recent expansion in effective population sizes, greatly prolonging the age-range over which the effective force of natural selection declines. Regardless of its evolutionary explanation, the cessation of aging in human populations suggests new possibilities for the extension of human healthspan.

Keywords: healthspan; human populations; effective population size; supercentenarians; mortality rate plateau

Chapter.  4622 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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