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© 2016 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Life history theory attempts to explain the diversity of life history patterns, and the mechanisms by which natural selection has shaped life-history traits. It attempts to answer questions such as why organisms are large or small, why they grow fast or slowly, why they mature early or late, why they produce one or many offspring, and why they reproduce once or many times during their lives. In this article, we introduce the concepts of life history and life history traits, fitness, and provide an overview of analytical tools that are commonly used in life history studies.

Original publication





Book title

Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology

Publication Date



394 - 399