Those who settle first, breed best

What will happen when we colonize a new planet? Will the first settlers become the planet's ruling class, or spread their bloodline across the entire planet's surface? Quite possibly. A new study indicates that you might want to be one of the first to land on a new world.

A huge new study of Quebecois genealogy from 1686 and 1960 reveals that the people who are the first to settle new regions wound up producing more offspring than those who followed. This research has significant bearing on how the human genome spread, plus what'll happen when we colonize other worlds.

Top image: Space colony art by Shigeru Komatsuzaki.

What the researchers found is that those who colonized a new area had significantly more children than those at the core of an existing settlement, that women colonists were on average 15% more fertile, and their kids had more kids, too.

Those who settle first, breed best

"We knew that the migration of species into new areas promoted the spread of rare mutations through a phenomenon known as 'gene surfing', but now we find that selection at the wave front [of the expansion] can make this surfing much more efficient. There is thus a long-term evolutionary success of people living on the edge", said Laurent Excoffier.

Part of this increase in fertility might have been because the women married on average a year earlier, but it's also not difficult to imagine that the population stress would be very different at the fringes of a settlement: more space and food, less pollution and squalor which could make a world of difference.

Image: Achille Bhérer and Hortense Gaudreault photographed in 1876 in Charlevoix with seven of their 14 children. Courtesy of the Bhérer Family