The only three mammals in the world who go through menopause are female humans and pilot whales. Now, according to researchers, the new addition to that short list are female killer whales. It seems that, in a way, their bodies work like that of women. They cannot reproduce over the course of their entire lives. The female killer whales lose this ability long before they die. However, this process happens with a reason. So that the whales can help their children reach adulthood safely and to also help them with their own children. Basically, if they are lucky enough, female killer whales can end up as grandmothers too.
According to the researchers from the University of Exeter, these whales can have babies from the time they reach sexual maturity up until they are about 30. But most of them live other 40 to 50 years without being able to procreate. Instead, they act as loving caretakers for those who need their help. In order to come up with these results, the researchers followed about 500 killer whales over more than three decades.
Female killer whales go through menopause too
But why does this happen and why does it only affect a few species? In the case of female killer whales, this probably evolved as a life pattern meant for whales to make sure that their children and grandchildren survive. According to the researchers, for menopause to evolve, the good parts need to outweigh the costs of it. So, whales stop reproducing, but instead take care of other children and eventually, grandchildren.
When it comes to this type of whales, the proof of this is obvious. According to reports, male killer whales are 14 times more likely to die after their mother has died too. Especially in the year after her passing. Also, it’s possible that other species might go through menopause too. But at the moment, experts are only aware of these three.
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