Environmentally Contingent Reproductive Strategies in Mayan and Ache Males

David Waynforth, A. Magdalena Hurtado, Kim Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


This research explores male reproductive parameters, particularly the timing of first reproduction, in two traditional populations. Predictions are drawn from theoretical arguments that have their roots in evolutionary psychology and behavioral ecology, and that interpret variation in reproductive outcomes as environmentally contingent adaptations. In both Ache and Mayan samples, father absence, predicted to act as a stressor that causes precocious sexuality and reproduction as well as unstable pair bonds, did not affect the timing of first reproduction in male offspring in the expected way. Father absence in Mayan men, however, was found to be associated with responses to questionnaire items indicating lack of willingness to pay time and energy costs to maintain existing sexual unions. The results suggest that father absence affects male mating strategy, but that strategic differences did not translate into reproductive outcomes in the sample. In the Mayan population, education was associated with early reproduction, more lifetime sex partners, and higher fertility, which was also contrary to the predicted pattern based on a life-history tradeoff approach. Parental resources were associated with earlier reproduction in the Mayan sample, confirming the prediction that restricted resources should delay reproduction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-385
Number of pages17
JournalEvolution and Human Behavior
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmentally contingent response
  • First reproduction
  • Male reproductive strategy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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