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Human females often live decades past their child-bearing years.

Female chimps rarely live past child-bearing years, usually into their 30s and sometimes their 40s.

But the new computer simulation ignored brain size, hunting and pair bonding, and showed that even a weak grandmother effect can make the simulated creatures evolve from chimp-like longevity to human longevity.

So Hawkes believes the shift to longer adult lifespan caused by grandmothering "is what underlies subsequent important changes in human evolution, including increasing brain size." "If you are a chimpanzee, gorilla or orangutan baby, your mom is thinking about nothing but you," she says.

How Grandmothering Came to Be Hawkes, University of Utah anthropologist James O'Connell and UCLA anthropologist Nicholas Blurton Jones formally proposed the grandmother hypothesis in 1997, and it has been debated ever since.

Once major criticism was that it lacked a mathematical underpinning -- something the new study sought to provide.

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