Sorry, fashion industry: The shape of things to come for women will be shorter and plumper, and it's all thanks to natural selection. Or, at least, that's what some scientists are claiming.

A team of researchers at Yale University, led by evolutionary biologist Stephen Stearns, studied 2238 post-menopausal women chosen from the Framingham Heart Study - which has tracked the medical history of the residents of Framingham, Massachusetts since 1948 - to see whether factors like height, weight or cholesterol impacted the number of children women had. Even with other, social, factors accounted for, the team found that on average, shorter, heavier women with lower cholesterol tended to have more children, and started having children earlier... and that they also tended to pass these traits onto their daughters. But what does this mean? According to Stearns, a lot:

If these trends continue for 10 generations, Stearns calculates, the average woman in 2409 will be 2 centimetres shorter and 1 kilogram heavier than she is today. She will bear her first child about 5 months earlier and enter menopause 10 months later.

2 centimeters in four hundred years? Natural selection may have an destination, but it's clearly not in any rush to get there.


Meet future woman: shorter, plumper, more fertile [New Scientist]