On Fertile Ground: A Natural History of Human Reproduction by Peter T. Ellison

By Peter T. Ellison

Reproduction is one of the most simple of human organic capabilities, either for our far away ancestors and for ourselves, no matter if we are living at the plains of Africa or in North American suburbs. Our reproductive biology unites us as a species, however it has additionally been a huge engine of our evolution. within the means bodies functionality this day we will see either the imprint of our formative earlier and implications for our destiny. it's the infinitely sophisticated and perpetually dramatic tale of human copy and its evolutionary context that Peter T. Ellison tells in On Fertile Ground.

Ranging from the newest achievements of recent fertility clinics to the lives of subsistence farmers within the rain forests of Africa, this booklet deals either a remarkably extensive and a minutely designated exploration of human copy. Ellison, a number one pioneer within the box, combines the views of anthropology, stressing the diversity and edition of human adventure; ecology, delicate to the two-way interactions among people and their environments; and evolutionary biology, emphasizing a practical realizing of human reproductive biology and its function in our evolutionary history.

Whether contrasting girl athletes lacking their classes and male athletes utilizing anabolic steroids with Polish farm girls and hunter-gatherers in Paraguay, or exploring the tricky choreography of an implanting embryo or of a nursing mom and her baby, On Fertile Ground advances a wealthy and deeply enjoyable rationalization of the mechanisms in which we reproduce and the evolutionary forces in the back of their design.

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Once Profet had formulated this hypothesis, she viewed many of the features of the endometrium and the process of menstruation as designed to achieve this specific purpose. For example, the peculiar spiral arteries that develop in the endometrium (of which we will hear more in the next chapter), which cause blood to enter the endometrial lacunae in pulsing jets, could be specially designed to jettison the endometrium in menstruation and to “pressure-wash” residual bacteria away. If menstruation evolved to serve this function, Profet argued, its distribution across species should be affected by the risk of infection.

The message itself, hCG, is too large a protein molecule to pass through cell membranes. Even if the embryo began to secrete this molecule while traveling down the fallopian tube or traversing the uterus it would not reach its destination. The hCG has to be secreted directly into the mother’s blood, and that can happen only after the embryo has successfully implanted and the trophoblast has broken through into the vascular lacunae of the endometrium. Only species that achieve such a direct connection between the embryonic and maternal circulation secrete such a signal: apes and Old World monkeys of course, but also a few less closely related species, such as horses, that achieve such a connection in certain limited regions of the placenta.

Mild immune suppression represents a cautious reaction to the uncertainty of the situation. But the embryo can try to further suppress the mother’s immune system. Among the very first excretory products that the embryo manufactures are molecules known as pregnancy-related proteins, some of which appear to act as local immune suppressants, inhibiting the interaction of lymphocytes and their targets in petri dish experiments. One of these is known as early pregnancy factor, minute traces of which can be detected in the mother’s blood within forty-eight hours of fertilization.

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