"If your father and grandfather were able to live and reproduce at a later age, this might predict that you yourself live in an environment that is somewhat similar - an environment with less accidental deaths or in which men are only able to find a partner at later ages," said Dan T.A. Eisenberg, doctoral candidate in anthropologist at Northwestern University.
"In such an environment, investing more in a body capable of reaching these late ages could be an adaptive strategy from an evolutionary perspective," added Eisenberg, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
The study, which was conducted in the Philippines, found that children of older fathers not only inherit longer telomeres, which are DNA found at the ends of chromosomes, but that the association of paternal age with offspring telomere length is cumulative across multiple generations, according to a Northwestern statement.
Shorter telomeres seem to be a cause of ill health that occurs with aging - longer telomeres seem to promote slower aging. It appears that as men delay reproduction, they will pass on longer telomeres to offspring, which may facilitate extension of life span and allow reproducing at older ages.
Christopher W. Kuzawa, associate professor of anthropology at Northwestern and study co-author, said: "If our recent ancestors waited until later in adulthood before they reproduced, it would make sense for our bodies to prepare for something similar by investing the extra resources necessary to maintain healthy functioning at more advanced ages."
"When we think of adaptation, we tend to think of it happening over hundreds of generations," Eisenberg said. "This study illustrates a means by which much more rapid adaptive genetic changes might occur over just a few generations."