This would have been inconceivable forty years ago. And, if the results hold up, it’s an intuitively satisfying explanation for why we’re born helpless, and remain so for many months post-partum. A tip o’ the hat to Erin Wayman for alerting us to this story.
Using biomechanical studies in tandem with the metabolism of pregnancy Dunsworth et al. have ruled out birth canal size as the limiting factor where gestation length is concerned. Instead they posit an energetic equation whereby the pregnant female is constrained to give birth at around nine months by her body’s inability to produce the energy necessary to maintain her life and that of her foetus. Brilliant concept! It’s a good day to be a palaeoanthropologist.
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