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[Paper Spotlight] Gathering is Not Only for Girls

Check out this new paper by Guillermo Zorrilla-Revilla & colleagues examining energetic differences by sex in gathering-related activities among Spanish children and adolescents.

Gathering is Not Only for Girls: No Infuence of Energy Expenditure on the Onset of Sexual Division of Labor

Guillermo Zorrilla‐Revilla · Jesús Rodríguez · Ana Mateos

Abstract: In some small-scale societies, a sexual division of labor is common. For subadult hunter-gatherers, the onset of this division dates to middle childhood and the start of puberty; however, there is apparently no physiological explanation for this timing. The present study uses an experimental approach to evaluate possible energetic differences by sex in gathering-related activities. The energetic cost of gathering-related activities was measured in a sample of 42 subjects of both sexes aged between 8 and 14 years. Body mass and other anthropometric variables were also recorded. Our results show that the energetic differences in the simulated gathering activities depend only on body mass. Both sexes expend a similar amount of energy during locomotion activities related to gathering. Discarding the energetic factor, the sexual division of tasks may be explained as an adaptation to acquire the skills needed to undertake the complex activities required during adulthood as early as possible. Carrying out gathering activities during childhood and adolescence could be favored by the growth and development cycles of Homo sapiens. Moreover, if most of the energetic costs of gathering activities depend on body mass, the delayed growth in humans relative to other primates allows subadults to practice these tasks for longer periods, and to become better at performing them. In fact, this strategy could enable them to acquire adults' complex skills at a low energetic cost that can be easily subsidized by other members of the group.

Click here to access the paper, out now in Human Nature.


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