It was revealed by a new study that female killer whales flourish after menopause and actually take leadership roles. Apparently, female killer whales use their time after menopause to share their wisdom and experience to younger members of their families.
It has been suspected that female killer whales have similar behavior to that of humans after menopause, as in they act as caregivers, but it wasn’t until now that the granny hypothesis was proved.
Researchers from the University of Exeter, United Kingdom, collected data over 35 years and observed 102 female killer whales for this study. It is known that female killer whales generally breed between 12 and 40 and will live up to the ripe-old age of 90, much like humans.
After careful examination of the data, the researchers found that female killer whales that were menopausal actually flourish after menopause. They play a crucial role in teaching less experienced members of their family or group to find food.
Doctor Laurent Brent, lead author of the study and professor at the University of Exeter, said that the results of the female killer whales study show for the first time ever that one way that female killer whales boost their kin survival is through a transfer of knowledge. She believes that one of the main explanations why female killer whales and humans continue to live long past their reproductive years must be so that they can value their wisdom.
The study found that menopausal female killer whales were group leaders in areas where the food was scarce, which means that they acted as team leaders that guided other whales into finding food. It was also found that the menopausal female killer whales helped their sons more than they did their daughters. Researchers believe that the reason behind this is that sons offer a much greater potential for gene passing, as sons mate outside their group.
Humans and two other kinds of whales continue to live long past their menopause. In all the other species of animals, the female dies quite soon after giving birth to their last child. Evolution experts believe that menopause happened in order to allow useful information to be kept in the family and social groups.