Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Ecology drives intragenomic conflict over menopause

Research output: Contribution to journalLetter


Open Access permissions



Francisco Ubeda, Hisashi Ohtsuki, Andy Gardner

School/Research organisations


Menopause is the transition from reproductive to non-reproductive life well before natural death. Rather than involving a smooth, rapid change, it is normally preceded by a long period of erratic hormonal fluctuation that is accompanied by a plethora of unpleasant symptoms. Here, we (1) suggest that this turbulent period owes to conflict, between a woman's maternally inherited (MI) and paternally inherited (PI) genes, over the trade-off between reproduction and communal care; (2) perform a theoretical analysis to show that this conflict is resolved either through silencing or fluctuating expression of one of the genes; (3) highlight which of the symptoms preceding menopause may result from antagonistic co-evolution of MI and PI genes; (4) argue that ecological differences between ancestral human populations may explain the variability in menopause among different ethnic groups; (5) discuss how these insights may be used to inform family planning and cancer risk assessment based on a woman's ancestral background.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-174
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number2
Early online date9 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014

    Research areas

  • Cancer, Cooperation, Demography, Fertility, Game theory, Genomic imprinting, Humans, Hunter gatherers, Kin selection, Migration

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Fisher’s reproductive value

    Gardner, A., 15 Apr 2019, (Accepted/In press) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Shackelford, T. K. & Weekes-Shackelford, V. A. (eds.). Cham: Springer

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary

  2. Sexual selection in complex communities: integrating interspecific reproductive interference in structured populations

    McDonald, G., Gardner, A. & Pizzari, T., 2 Apr 2019, In : Evolution. Early View, 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. The greenbeard effect

    Gardner, A., 28 Mar 2019, (Accepted/In press) In : Current Biology.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Genomic imprinting as a window into human language evolution

    Hitchcock, T., Paracchini, S. & Gardner, A., 26 Mar 2019, (Accepted/In press) In : BioEssays.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. How to make a haploid male

    Ross, L., Davies, N. & Gardner, A., 7 Mar 2019, In : Evolution Letters. Early View, 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. A balance of winners and losers in the Anthropocene

    Dornelas, M., Gotelli, N. J., Shimadzu, H., Moyes, F., Magurran, A. E. & McGill, B. J., May 2019, In : Ecology Letters. 22, 5, p. 847-854 8 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Increased socially mediated plasticity in gene expression accompanies rapid adaptive evolution

    Pascoal, S., Liu, X., Fang, Y., Paterson, S., Ritchie, M. G., Rockliffe, N., Zuk, M. & Bailey, N. W., Apr 2018, In : Ecology Letters. 21, 4, p. 546-556

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Navigating the complexity of ecological stability

    Donohue, I., Hillebrand, H., Montoya, J. M., Petchey, O. L., Pimm, S. L., Fowler, M. S., Healy, K., Jackson, A. L., Lurgi, M., McClean, D., O'Connor, N. E., O'Gorman, E. J. & Yang, Q., Sep 2016, In : Ecology Letters. 19, 9, p. 1172-85 14 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

  4. The ecology of sex explains patterns of helping in arthropod societies

    Davies, N., Ross, L. & Gardner, A., Aug 2016, In : Ecology Letters. 19, 8, p. 862-872 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Related by journal

  1. Ecology Letters (Journal)

    Thomas Robert Meagher (Member of editorial board)

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditor of research journal

ID: 84192639