Who Do Killer Whales Go Through Menopause?

Posted: Jan 13 2017, 3:06am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

 
Who Do Killer Whales Go Through Menopause?
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  • Killer Whales Go Through Menopause due to Mother-Daughter Conflict

The behavior of killer whales lends us several clues as to why there is the phenomenon of menopause in females.

Killer whales are just one of the three species that undergo menopause. These species continue to live for a period of time after they have stopped reproducing.

The thing is that the older females tend to help their younger counterparts find sustenance in times of scarcity and thus survive. Yet researchers point out that the older females stop reproducing since there is conflict between mothers and daughters.

Thus instead of cooperation, here we see competition as the main mechanism spurring on this phenomenon. The novel evidence suggests that if older females reproduce side by side with their daughters, the calves are more likely to perish.

Therefore it lies in the interest of the older females to stop reproducing and help their younger counterparts in the survival game.

Evolution seems to dictate this self-sacrifice on the part of the elderly females among the killer whales. While we all know why the older females help, what we don’t know is why they actually stop producing eggs.

What seems to be at play here is the factor that these older females lose out in the competitive drive with their daughters as far as reproduction is concerned.

Normally female killer whales start reproducing by the age of 15. They stop this function by the time they hit their 30s and 40s. Yet these marine animals can live upto ages of 90 and more.

Older females play an important role as heads of families that benefit their underlings. However, the benefits confered on the younger ones are not the reason behind menopause in the older killer whales.

Conflicts between generations is the engine of menopause. Women in ancient groups managed to become closer with age to those who occupied the space surrounding them.

Thus the elderly tended to stop reproducing and became helpers of sorts. The same is seen in killer whales. Killer whales were observed in the wild state and the researchers reached the same conclusion.

When mothers and daughters reproduce at one and the same time, the calves of the older females tend to die off. Therefore to prevent this, menopause became a feature of mammals especially human females. The sharing of food and survival strategies played an important role in all of this.

The findings of this study got published in the journal Current Biology on January 12.

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