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See Inside Scientific American Volume 308, Issue 6

Recommended: How We Do It

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How We Do It



Basic Books

How We Do It: The Evolution and Future of Human Reproduction
Robert Martin
Basic Books, 2013 ($27.99)

Human babies are born extremely plump, with about four times as much fat as other comparably sized mammals. Why? The extra layers may help fuel rapid brain growth in the first year of life, writes Martin, a curator of biological anthropology at the Field Museum in Chicago, in this exploration of sex, conception, birth, breast-feeding and parenting in the animal world. He suggests that examining our evolutionary past can lead to improved reproduction in our future. For example, the time each month when a woman is fertile varies. Historical records and the cycles of close primate relatives may help tease out the intricacies of ovulation and conception, including which factors may be linked to developmental defects.

This article was originally published with the title "How We Do It."

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