Emergence and maintenance of menopause in humans: A game theory model

J Theor Biol. 2017 Oct 7;430:229-236. doi: 10.1016/j.jtbi.2017.07.019. Epub 2017 Jul 22.


Menopause, the permanent cessation of ovulation, occurs in women well before the end of their expected life span. Several adaptive hypotheses have been proposed to solve this evolutionary puzzle, each based on a possible fitness benefit derived from an early reproductive senescence, but no consensus has emerged. The construction of a game theory model allowed us to jointly study the main adaptive hypotheses in emergence and maintenance of menopause. Four classical hypotheses on the benefits of menopause were considered (decreased maternal mortality, increased grandmothering, decreased conflict over reproductive resources between older and younger females, and changes in their relatedness) plus a fifth one derived from a possible pleiotropic trade-off. Interestingly, the conditions for the emergence of menopause are more restrictive than those for its maintenance due to the social and familial changes induced by the occurrence of non-reproductive older women.

Keywords: Conflict over resources; ESS; Grandmothering; Kin selection; Maternity cost; Pleiotropy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biological Evolution*
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Game Theory*
  • Humans
  • Menopause*
  • Reproduction