News FocusAMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF PHYSICAL ANTHROPOLOGISTS

Reproductive Fate Versus Environment

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Science  01 May 2009:
Vol. 324, Issue 5927, pp. 589
DOI: 10.1126/science.324_589

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Summary

Women's fertility is determined in large part at birth. They are born with their total number of ovarian follicles, for example, which normally influences the age at which menopause begins. But in the 1990s, researchers proposed that if a child's energy is depleted by malnutrition, disease, or other factors, he or she would be less fertile as an adult. By using the natural experiment of migration, researchers demonstrated in a talk at the American Association of Physical Anthropologists meeting how differences during childhood do indeed alter the course of reproduction in adult women. They found that Bangladeshi women who live in London are more fertile than those in Bangladesh but less fertile than Bangladeshi women born in London.