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The fitness of twin mothers : evidence from rural Gambia

Sear, Rebecca, Mace, Ruth, Shanley, Daryl and McGregor, Ian A. (2001) The fitness of twin mothers : evidence from rural Gambia. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 14 (3). pp. 433-443. ISSN 1420-9101

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Identification Number: 10.1046/j.1420-9101.2001.00287.x


We used a longitudinal database from a natural fertility population in rural Gambia to compare the overall fertility of mothers who had given birth to twins at some point in their reproductive history and mothers who had only ever given birth to singletons. We found that twin mothers had shorter birth intervals, higher age-specific fertility and more surviving children than singleton mothers. This suggests that, despite the considerably higher mortality of twins found in this population, twin mothers have a fitness advantage over singleton mothers, even in the absence of modern medical care. We ran a simple simulation model to estimate the relative fitness of twin and singleton mothers, and found that the model also estimated higher fitness for twin mothers. Further, girls who went on to become twin mothers were of higher anthropometric status than those who became singleton mothers during their teenage years.

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Additional Information: This is an electronic version of an Article published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology 14 (3) pp. 433-443 © 2001 Blackwell Publishing. LSE has developed LSE Research Online so that users may access research output of the School. Copyright © and Moral Rights for the papers on this site are retained by the individual authors and/or other copyright owners. Users may download and/or print one copy of any article(s) in LSE Research Online to facilitate their private study or for non-commercial research. You may not engage in further distribution of the material or use it for any profit-making activities or any commercial gain. You may freely distribute the URL ( of the LSE Research Online website.
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Q Science > QL Zoology
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2006
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2021 00:05

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