Dr Virpi Lummaa

Dr Virpi Lummaa

Tel: +44 (0)114 222 0051
Fax: +44 (0)114 222 0002

email : v.lummaa@sheffield.ac.uk

Human project homepage: www.huli.group.shef.ac.uk/index.html
Elephant project homepage: myanmar-timber-elephant.group.shef.ac.uk


2012 - Reader in Evolutionary Biology, University of Sheffield, UK
2011 - 2012 Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study), Germany
2003 - 2013 Royal Society University Research Fellow, University of Sheffield, UK
2002 - 2004 Post-doctoral Research Fellow, Clare Hall College, Cambridge, UK
2001 - 2003 Marie Curie Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Cambridge, UK
2000 - 2001 Academy of Finland Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Cambridge, UK
1997 - 1999 PhD in Zoology, Dept. of Biology, University of Turku, Finland
1993 - 1997 Degree & MSc in Ecology, Dept. of Biology, University of Turku, Finland

Maternity leave 2007 and 2010

Main Awards

  •  Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour Award for Outstanding Young Investigator 2005
  •  Finnish Academy of Science Award for the Best PhD thesis is Science and Medicine in 2000
  •  Fellowships: Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, University Research Fellowship of the Royal Society of London, Marie Curie, Clare Hall College (Cambridge, UK), Academy of Finland (x2), Emil Aaltonen Foundation (x3)
  •  Grants as PI: European Research Council (ERC) consolidator grant 2015-2020, The Leverhulme Trust standard research grant 2013-2016, NERC Innovation, Impact and Knowledge Exchange Collaborative R&D Award 2014-2015, ERC starter grant 2008-2013, NERC standard research grant 2009-2012, The Leverhulme Trust Standard Research Grant 2013-2016, Nando Peretti Foundation Grant for Conservation 2010-2012, Academy of Finland Research Grants 2001-2004 & 2004-2008

Key Research Interests

Human Behavioural Ecology

images of people

I investigate the ecological causes and evolutionary consequences of variation in reproductive success, longevity and life-history strategies within and between different human populations. Majority of this work builds on my individual-based genealogical dataset from Finland that contains all births, deaths, marriages and inter-parish movements for >15 generations of humans living in 8 different regions (80,000 individuals) during 1700-2000, combined with data for annual variation in climate, harvest success, etc. I am also keen to compare my findings with patterns seen in current developing countries and contemporary western populations. I have consequently started collaborations on similar datasets collected from historical Canada, US, contemporary Europe, Mongolia, Gambia and Senegal.

Projects at the moment involve:

  • Investigating senescence patterns in humans and how these are modified by local ecology and genetic architecture of the traits
  • Examining the causes and consequences of family-living in humans
  • Studying the effects of early environmental conditions on reproductive performance and survival
  • Linking reproductive success to personality differences and their underlying hormonal basis

More information here

Evolutionary Ecology of Asian Elephants

Myanmar Asian elephants

I have recently received funding to study the ecological causes of senescence and its hormonal associates in another exceptionally long-lived mammal, the Asian elephant. This study utilizes a unique (>10,000 individuals from 5 generations) demographic dataset collected on a semi-captive Asian elephant population from Myanmar involved in logging industry. We have built a large individual-based dataset covering the full life-history of succeeding generations of captive timber elephants born or captured 1942-2013 in Myanmar, by using the elephant log books and annual extraction reports archived and maintained by the Myanmar Timber Enterprise. The project also involves collection of hormonal, DNA, weight, body condition, behavioural and parasite count data in the field. Myanmar has the largest captive Asian elephant population in the world but low rates of survival and reproduction necessitate capture of wild elephants to maintain the working population. The health of the captive population is therefore tightly linked to the endangered wild population. Our research aims to determine factors affecting health, fertility and mortality rates in the captive population and devising strategies to improve them.

More information here

Current Research Group

Postdoctoral Research Associates

Dr Khyne Mar

Dr Hannah Mumby

PhD Students

Carly Lynsdale

I welcome applications from students and postdocs sharing similar research interests and the passion for science with me.

Examples of recent Plenary talks

Virpi Lummaa at ESEB 2013

  • Congress of the German Society for Anthropology, Munich, Germany (forthcoming 2015)
  • Evolutionary Genetics & Genomics Symposium (EGGS), University of Cambridge, UK (2014)
  • Mammalogy Conference of Finland, Lammi, Finland (2014)
  • Rufford Grantees' Conference on Environmental Awareness and Conservation, Myanmar (2014)
  • Congress of the European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB), Portugal (2013)
  • 11th International Mammalogical Congress, Northern Ireland (2013)
  • EGI Conference, Edward Grey Institute for Ornithology, University of Oxford (2012)
  • University of Helsinki Spring Symposium, Finland (2010)
  • Benelux Congress of Zoology, Holland (2009)
  • French Society of Human Ecology Meeting on Transmissions between Generations, France (2009)
  • Annual European Meeting of PhD students in Evolutionary Biology, Holland (2009)
  • Meeting of Human Behaviour and Evolution Society, USA (2009)
  • European Congress of Biogerontology - Ageing and individual life history, Holland (2008)
  • European Human Behaviour and Evolution Conference (EHBEA), France (2008)
  • Annual European Meeting of PhD students in Evolutionary Biology, Scotland (2006)
  • Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB) Easter Meeting, UK (2006)

Examples of recent talks at broad-audience events

  • Science Days organised by the Finnish Academy of Science, Helsinki, Finland, 2015
  • Biosynteesi Symposium organised by the University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland, 2015
  • Science Days organised by the Research Council of Norway, Oslo, 2014
  • ERC-organised session at EuroScience Open Forum, Dublin, Ireland, 2012
  • Science Forum organised by the Finnish Ministry of Education and the Academy of Finland, Helsinki, Finland, 2010
  • Talk to Finnish European Parliament member assistants, organised by the Academy of Finland, Brussels, Belgium, 2012


I currently supervise level 3 undergraduate research projects (APS330) and level 4 projects (APS402 & APS406) close to my research interests. Recent topics include studying causes and consequences of personality variation in Asian elephants; trade-offs between age at first reproduction and growth in Asian elephants; and effects of early disease exposure and other environmental conditions on the later life survival and reproductive success in humans. I also supervise dissertations (APS331) over a broad range of topics in ecology, evolution and conservation, including human behavioural ecology. I contribute level 1 lectures to APS126 on the evolution of behaviour in humans and other animals. I also lecture at level 3 for APS351 on Human Evolutionary Genetics. My level 1 and level 2 tutorials cover a variety of themes relating to evolutionary biology and human behavioural ecology, usually tailored to individual student interests and needs. I emphasize the need to think critically about science and science communication, develop understanding of best approaches to designing, collecting and analysing data, and I encourage and train communicating science to various audiences in different formats.



Bolund, E., Hayward, A.D., Pettay, J.E., Lummaa, V. (2015) Effects of the demographic transition on the genetic variances and covariances of human life history traits. Evolution, in press

Brucker, T., Helle, S., Bolund, E., Lummaa, V. (2015) Culled males, infant mortality and reproductive success in a pre-industrial Finnish population. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 282: 20140835

Hayward, A.D., Nenko, I., Lummaa, V. (2015) Early-life reproduction is associated with increased mortality risk but enhanced lifetime fitness in pre-industrial humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, in press


Alvergne, A., Lummaa, V. (2014) Ecological variation in wealth-fertility relationships in Mongolia: the "central theoretical problem of human sociobiology" not a problem after all? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 281 (1796), 20141733

Berg, V., Lummaa, V., Lahdenperä, M., Rotkirch, A., Jokela, M. (2014) Personality and long-term reproductive success measured by the number of grandchildren. Evolution and Human Behaviour 35 (6), 533-539

Hayward, A.D., Mar, K.U., Lahdenperä, M., & Lummaa, V. (2014) Early reproductive investment, senescence and lifetime reproductive success in female Asian elephants. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27: 772-783

Helle, S., Brommer, J.E., Pettay, J.E., Lummaa, V., Enbuske, M., Jokela, J. (2014) Evolutionary demography of agriculture expansion in preindustrial northen Finland. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 281 (1794): 20141559

Jokela, M., Alvergne, A., Rotkirch, A., Rickard, I.J., Lummaa, V. (2014) Associations between family size and offspring education depend on aspects of parental responsibility. Personality and Individual Differences 58: 95-100

Lahdenperä, M., Mar, K.U., Lummaa, V. (2014) Reproductive cessation and post-reproductive lifespan in Asian elephants. Frontiers in Zoology 11 (1), 54

Liu, J., & Lummaa, V. (2014) An evolutionary approach to change of status-fertility relationship in human fertility transition. Behavioural Ecology 25, 102-109

Nenko, I., Hayward, A.D., Lummaa, V. (2014) The effect of socio-economic status and food availability on first birth interval in a pre-industrial human population. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 281: 2013-2319

Nitsch, A., Faurie, C. & Lummaa, V. (2014) Alloparenting in humans: fitness consequences of aunts and uncles on survival in historical Finland. Behavioural Ecology 25: 424-433

Pettay, J.E., Rotkirch, A., Courtiol, A., Jokela, M. & Lummaa, V. (2014) Multiple marriages after widowhood did not enhance male or female long-term fitness in a monogamous human population. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 68: 135-143

Störmer, C. & Lummaa, V. (2014) Increased mortality exposure within the family rather than individual mortality experiences trigger faster life-history strategies in historic human populations. PLOS ONE 9, e83633


Bolund, E., Bouwhuis, S., Pettay, J.E. & Lummaa, V. (2013) Divergent selection on, but no genetic conflict over female and male timing and rate of reproduction in a human population. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 280 (1772): 20132002

Courtiol, A., Rickard, I.J., Lummaa, V., Prentice, A.M., Fulford, A.J.C., & Stearns, S.C. (2013) The demographic transition influences variance in fitness and selection on height and BMI in rural Gambia. Current Biology 23: 884-889

Courtiol, A., Rickard, I.J., Lummaa, V., Prentice, A.M., Fulford, A.J.C., Stearns, S.C. (2013) Changes in selection on height and BMI during the demographic transition: the case of rural Gambia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 150: 104-104

Gillespie, D.O.S., Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2013) The effect of maternal age and reproductive history on offspring survival and lifetime reproduction in pre-industrial humans. Evolution 67: 1964-1974

Hayward, A.D. & Lummaa, V. (2013) Testing the evolutionary basis of the predictive adaptive response hypothesis in a preindustrial human population. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health 1: 106-117

Hayward, A.D., Rickard, I.J. & Lummaa, V. (2013) The influence of early-life nutrition on mortality and reproductive success during a subsequent famine in a pre-industrial population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of U.S.A 110: 13886-13891

Helle, S. & Lummaa, V. (2013) A trade-off between having many sons and shorter maternal post-reproductive survival in pre-industrial Finland. Biology Letters 9: 20130034

Lummaa, V. (2013) Human behavioural ecology.  In Princeton Guide to Evolution Edited by Losos, J et al. Princeton University Press

Maklakov, A. & Lummaa, V. (2013) Evolution of sex differences in lifespan and aging: causes and contraints. BioEssays 35: 717-24

Mumby, H.S., Courtiol, A., Mar, K.U. & Lummaa, V. (2013) Climatic variation and age-specific survival in Asian elephants from Myanmar. Ecology 94: 1131-1141

Mumby, H.S., Courtiol, A., Mar, K.U. & Lummaa, V. (2013) Associations between birth seasonality and calf mortality in Asian elephants. Ecology & Evolution 3: 3794-3803

Nitsch, A., Faurie, C. & Lummaa, V. (2013) Are elder siblings helpers or competitors? Long-term fitness effects of sibling interactions in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 280 (1750)


Courtiol, A., Pettay, J., Jokela, M., Rotkirch, A. & Lummaa, V. (2012) Natural and sexual selection in a monogamous historical human population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of U.S.A. 109: 8044-8049

Hayward, A.D., Holopainen, J., Pettay, J.E. & Lummaa, V. (2012) Food and fitness: associations between crop yields and life-history traits in a longitudinally monitored pre-industrial human population. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 279 (1745) 4165-4173

Holopainen, J., Gregow, H., Helama, S., Kubin, E., Lummaa, V. & Terhivuo, J. (2012) Suomen kasvifenologisista havainnoista 1700-luvun puolivälistä nykpäivään. (History of Finnish plat phenological observations since the 1750s). Sorbifolia 43 (2): 51-66

Lahdenperä, M., Gillespie, D.O.S., Lummaa, V. & Russell, A.F. (2012) Severe itergenerational reproductive conflict and the evolution of menopause. Ecology Letters 15 (11), 1283-1290

Liu, J., Rotkirch, A. & Lummaa, V. (2012) Maternal risk of breeding failure and life-history shifts during demographic transitions in Finland. PLOS One 7 (4), e34898

Mar, K.U., Lahdenperä, M. & Lummaa, V. (2012) Causes and correlates of calf mortality in semi-captive Asian elephants (Elaphas maximus). PLOS One 7 (3): e32335

Rickard, I.J., Courtiol, A., Prentice, A.M., Fulford, A.J.C., Clutton-Brock, T.H. & Lummaa, V. (2012) Intergenerational effects of maternal birth season on offspring size in rural Gambia. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 279 (1745), 4253-4262

Rickard, I.J., Courtiol, A. & Lummaa, V. (2012) Why is lifetime fertility higher in twinning women, and what does this say about heterogeneity? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 279: 2510-2511

Rickard, I.J., Prentice, A.M., Fulford, A.J.C. & Lummaa, V. (2012) Twinning propensity and offspring in utero growth covary in rural African women. Biology Letters 8: 67-70

Robinson, M.R., Mar, K.U. & Lummaa, V. (2012) Senescence and age specific trade-offs between reproduction and survival in female Asian elephants. Ecology Letters 15: 260-266

Silva, A.S., Lummaa, V., Muller, U., Mazur, A., Raymond, M. & Alvergne, A. (2012) Facial attractiveness and reproductive success. Evolution and Human Behaviour 33: 491-498


Jokela, M., Alvergne, A., Pollet, T.V. & Lummaa, V. (2011) Reproductive behaviour and personality traits of the Five Factor Model. European Journal of Personality 25: 487-500

Lahdenperä, M., Tremblay, M., Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2011) Selection on menopause in two pre-modern human populations: No evidence for the Mother Hypothesis. Evolution 65: 476-489

Lahdenperä, M., Lummaa, V., Russell, A.F. (2011) Selection on male longevity in a monogamous human population: late-life survival brings no additional grandchildren. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24: 1053-1063

Liu, J. & Lummaa, V. (2011) Age at first reproduction and probability of reproductive failure in women. Evolution and Human Behaviour 32: 433-443


Alvergne, A., Jokela, J. & Lummaa, V. (2010) Personality and reproductive success in a high-fertility human population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of U.S.A. 277: 2909-2911

Alvergne, A., Jokela, J., Faurie, C. & Lummaa, V. (2010) Personality and testosterone in men from a high-fertility human population. Personality and Individual Differences 49: 840-844

Alvergne, A. & Lummaa, V. (2010) Response to Carere et al. Human mate preference: inconsistency between data and interpretations. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25: 491-492

Alvergne, A. & Lummaa, V. (2010) Does the contraceptive pill alter mate-choice in humans? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 25: 171-179

Gillespie, D.O.S., Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2010) Pair-bonding modifies the age-specific intensity of natural selection on human female fecundity. American Naturalist 176: 159-169

Helle, S., Lummaa, V. & Jokela, J. (2010) On the number of sons born and shorter lifespan in historical Sami mothers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences 277: 2909-2911

Jokela, M., Rickard, I.J., Pettay, J.P., Rotkirch, A. & Lummaa, V. (2010) Serial monogamy and reproductive success in a contemporary human population. Behavioural Ecology 21: 906-912

Lummaa, V. (2010) The costs of reproduction. In Homo Novus - A Human without Illusions. Edited by Stoermer, C. et al. Springer

Rickard, I.J., Holopainen, J., Helama, S., Helle, S., Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2010) Food availability at birth limited lifetime reproductive success in historical humans. Ecology 91: 3515-3525


Faurie, C., Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2009) Middleborns at disadvantage? Testing birth-order effects on fitness in pre-industrial humans. Plos ONE 4(5): e5680

Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2009) Maternal effects in cooperative breeders: From hymenopterans to humans. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 364: 1143-1167


Gillespie, D.O.S., Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2008) When fecundity does not equal fitness: Evidence of a quantity-quality trade-off in pre-industrial humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B - Biological Sciences 275: 713-722

Helle, S., Lummaa, V. & Jokela, J. (2008) Marrying 15 years younger woman maximized men's evolutionary fitness in historical Sami. Biology Letters 4: 75-77

Lummaa, V. (2008) Ihmisen elinkiertojen evoluutio. In Evoluutio Nyt! Edited by Vuorisalo, T. & Portin, P. WSOY

Pettay, J.E., Charmantier, A., Wilson, A.J. & Lummaa, V. (2008) Age-specific genetic and maternal effects in fecundity in pre-industrial Finnish women. Evolution 62: 2297-2304

Rickard, I.J. & Lummaa, V. (2008) The predictive adaptive response and metabolic syndrome - challenges for the hypothesis. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism 18: 94-99

Rickard, I.J., Lummaa, V. & Russell, A.F. (2008) Elder brothers affect the life-history of younger siblings in preindustrial humans: Social consequence or biological cost? Evolution and Human Behaviour 30: 49-57


Lahdenperä, M., Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2007) Selection for long lifespan in men: benefits of grandfathering? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B - Biological Sciences 274: 2437-2444

Lummaa, V. (2007) Life-history theory, longevity and reproduction in humans. In Oxford Handbook of Evolutionary Psychology. Edited by Dunbar, R.I.M. & Barrett, L. Oxford University Press

Lummaa, V., Pettay, J.E. & Russell, A.F. (2007) Male twins reduce fitness of female co-twins in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of U.S.A. 104: 10915-10920

Pettay, J.E., Helle, S., Jokela, J. & Lummaa, V. (2007) Wealth class-specific natural selection on female life-history traits in historical human populations. Plos ONE 2(7): e606

Rickard, I.J., Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2007) Producing sons reduces lifetime reproductive success of subsequent offspring in pre-industrial Finns. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B - Biological Sciences 274: 2981-2988

Rickard, I.J., Russell, A.F. & Lummaa, V. (2007) Maternal reproductive history and the survival and fertility of their children: a study of a preindustrial Finnish population. Early Human Development 83: S175

2005 and earlier

Helle, S., Lummaa, V. & Jokela, J. (2005) Late, but not early, reproduction correlated with longevity in historical Sami women. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B - Biological Science 272: 29-37

Pettay, J.E., Kruuk, L.E.B., Jokela, J. & Lummaa, V. (2005) Heritability and genetic constraints of life-history trait evolution in pre-industrial humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of U.S.A. 102: 2838-2843

Helle, S., Lummaa, V. & Jokela, J. (2004) Accelerated immunosenescence in pre-industrial twin mothers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of U.S.A. 101: 12391-12396

Helle, S., Lummaa, V. & Jokela, J. (2004) Selection of increased brood size in pre-industrial humans. Evolution 52: 430-436

Lahdenperä, M., Lummaa, V., Helle, S., Tremblay, M. & Russell, A.F. (2004) Fitness benefits of prolonged post-reproductive lifespan in women. Nature 428: 178-181

Lahdenperä, M., Lummaa, V. & Russell, A.F. (2004) Menopause: Why does fertility end before life? Climacteric 7: 1-5

Lummaa, V. (2003) Reproductive success and early developmental conditions in humans: downstream effects of pre-natal famine, birth weight and timing of birth. American Journal of Human Biology 15: 370-379

Lummaa, V. & Tremblay, M. (2003) Month of birth predicted reproductive success and fitness in pre-modern Canadian women. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 270: 2355-2361

Helle, S., Lummaa, V. & Jokela, J. (2002) Sons reduced maternal longevity in pre-industrial humans. Science 296: 1085

Helle, S., Lummaa, V. & Jokela, J. (2002) Effect of producing sons on maternal longevity in pre-modern populations - Response. Science 298: U1-U2

Lummaa, V. & Clutton-Brock, T.H. (2002) Early development, survival and reproduction in humans. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 17: 141-147

Lummaa, V. (2001) Reproductive investment in pre-industrial humans: consequences of offspring number, gender and survival. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B 268: 1977-1983

Lummaa, V., Jokela, J. & Haukioja, E. (2001) Gender difference in benefits of twinning in pre-industrial humans: boys did not pay. Journal of Animal Ecology 70: 739-746

Tullberg, B.S. & Lummaa, V. (2001) Induced abortion rate in modern Sweden falls with age, but rises again before menopause. Evolution & Human Behaviour 22: 1-10

Ranta, E., Lummaa, V., Kaitala, V. & Merilä, J. (2000) Spatial dynamics of adaptive sex ratios. Ecology Letters 3: 30-34

Lummaa, V. (1999) Adaptive and nonadaptive variation in human life-history traits. Annales Universitatis Turkuensis All: 124, Painosalama Oy, Turku, Finland

Lummaa, V., Haukioja, E. & Lemmetyinen, R. (1999) Does polyovulation counterbalance a high abortion rate in humans? Journal of Evolutionary Biology 1: 806-808

Lummaa, V., Haukioja, E., Lemmetyinen, R. & Pikkola, M. (1998) Natural selection on human twinning. Nature 394: 533-534

Lummaa, V., Lemmetyinen, R., Haukioja, E. & Pikkola, M. (1998) Seasonality of births in Homo sapiens in pre-industrialised Finland: maximisation of offspring survivorship? Journal of Evolutionary Biology 11: 147-157

Lummaa, V., Merilä, J. & Kause, A. (1998) Adaptive sex ratio variation in pre-industrialised human (Homo sapiens) populations? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 265: 563-568

Lummaa, V., Vuorisalo, T., Barr, R. & Lehtonen, L. (1998) Why cry? Adaptive significance of intensive crying in human infants. Evolution & Human Behaviour 19: 193-202

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