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We investigate whether age profiles of ethnobiological knowledge development are consistent with predictions derived from life history theory about the timing of productivity and reproduction. Life history models predict complementary knowledge profiles developing across the lifespan for women and men as they experience changes in embodied capital and the needs of dependent offspring. We evaluate these predictions using an ethnobiological knowledge assessment tool developed for an off-grid pastoralist population, known as Choyeros, from Baja California Sur, Mexico. Our results indicate that while individuals acquire knowledge of most dangerous items and edible resources by early adulthood, knowledge of plants and animals relevant to the age and sex divided labor domains and ecologies (e.g., women’s house gardens, men’s herding activities in the wilderness) continues to develop into middle adulthood but to different degrees and at different rates for men and women. As the demands of offspring accumulate for parents with age, reproductive aged adults continue to develop their knowledge to meet their children’s needs. After controlling for vision, post-reproductive adults’ show the greatest ethnobiological knowledge. These findings extend our understanding of the evolved human life history by illustrating how changes in embodied capital and the needs of dependent offspring predict the development of men’s and women’s ethnobiological knowledge across the lifespan.


ESI Working Paper 20-31

This paper later underwent peer review and was published as:

Schniter, E., Macfarlan, S. J., Garcia, J .J., Ruiz-Campis, G., Guevara Beltran, D., Bowen, B. B., & Lerbak, J. C. (2021) Age appropriate wisdom? Ethnobiological knowledge ontogeny in pastoralist Mexican Choyeros. Human Nature, 32, 48–83.

A free-to-read version of the final publication is available here.

A correction was published in March 2021 at



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