Menopause is a downright bizarre trait among animals. It’s also rare. Outside of the human species, only the female members of two whale species outlive their reproductive lives in such a major way. Female killer whales typically become mothers between the ages of 12 and 40, but they can live for more than 90 years. By comparison, males of the species rarely make it past 50. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology have new evidence to explain why, evolutionarily speaking, these select female whales live so remarkably long.
A killer whale pod swims in tight configuration.
Credit: David Ellifrit, Center for Whale Research
Current Biology, Brent et al.: “Ecological Knowledge, Leadership, and the Evolution of Menopause in Killer Whales “doi:10.1016/j.cub.2015.01.037