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How many children an individual may have is influenced by reproductive biology and human behaviour, according to the largest study to date, which identifies genetic determinants. The study, led by researchers at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and Pennsylvania, also identified that the human genome has been influenced by natural selection for thousands of years and continues to affect fertility today.

Red haired girl

The findings demonstrate that fertility is affected by diverse biological mechanisms, which contribute to variations in fertility, and directly affect puberty timing, sex hormone levels (such as testosterone), endometriosis and age at menopause. There were also links to behaviours such as risk taking.

Professor Melinda Mills, Director of Oxford’s Leverhulme Centre for Demographic Science, comments, ‘This study is of interest to understanding changes in human reproduction over longer periods of time, reproductive biology and potential links to infertility.’

‘It also empirically tests one of the most gripping and fundamental questions asked by scientists across many disciplines and decades: Is there evidence of ongoing natural selection in humans and, if so, what is it and how does it operate?’

Read the full story on the University of Oxford website