Saturday March 07, 2015
Menopause Helps Killer Whale Offspring
Humans and two species of whales - the Killer whale and the Pilot whale, are the only animals known to have an extended post-reproductive life. Menopause is something of a biological puzzle as most animals reproduce until they die in order to produce as many offspring as possible.
Canadian researcher Dr. Lauren Brent, from the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour at The University of Exeter in England, has been investigating menopause in female Killer whales who stop reproducing in their late thirties, but can live up to a century.
She's found from behavioural studies that mature females help their families - their sons, daughters and other descendents - by accumulating knowledge about the environment and food resources, thus aiding the survival of their offspring in their post-reproductive years.