Science

Study: Menopause in Female Whales and Longevity Factors

A study funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Natural Environment Research Council reveals that menopause in female whales may explain why some species live longer. Post-reproductive females play a crucial role in group survival and success.

At a glance

  • A new study funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Natural Environment Research Council has shed light on menopause in female whales.
  • Menopause may explain why some female whale species live significantly longer, with some individuals surviving up to 40 years longer.
  • Menopause has been observed in five species of toothed whales.
  • Female whales may have evolved menopause to become grandmothers and have extended lifespans without competing for mates.
  • Female whales exhibit complex social structures that contribute to the longevity of post-reproductive females.

The details

A new study funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Natural Environment Research Council has shed light on the phenomenon of menopause in female whales.

The study reveals that menopause may explain why some female whale species live significantly longer than others, with some individuals surviving up to 40 years longer.

Whales, like humans, are unique among mammals in that they experience menopause.

In fact, menopause has been observed in five species of toothed whales.

This evolutionary trait may have developed to allow female whales to live long enough to become grandmothers, as post-menopausal whales can have extended lifespans without having to compete for mates with their daughters or granddaughters.

Female toothed whales exhibit a complex social structure, where they share food and cooperate to find food, especially in times of scarcity.

This social behavior is believed to contribute to the longevity of post-reproductive females, who play a crucial role in dealing with environmental challenges within the group.

Interestingly, male whales do not exhibit the same social structure that would allow for the evolution of “male menopause.”

Female whales often outlive males of their species, highlighting the importance of post-reproductive females in the survival and success of the group.

The study also draws parallels between the life histories of whales and humans, noting that both species have independently evolved similar patterns of post-reproductive survival.

Menopause has only been observed in six out of over 5,000 mammal species, underscoring the uniqueness of this trait in the animal kingdom.

Overall, this research provides valuable insights into the evolutionary significance of menopause in female whales and highlights the critical role that post-reproductive females play in the social and ecological dynamics of whale populations.

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Facts attribution

This section links each of the article’s facts back to its original source.

If you suspect false information in the article, you can use this section to investigate where it came from.

independent.co.uk
– Menopause may explain why some female whale species live around 40 years longer than others
– Whales are the only mammals, apart from humans, that go through menopause
– Menopause is known to exist in five species of toothed whale
– Menopause may have evolved to enable whales to survive long enough to become grandmothers
– Post-menopausal whales can have long lives without competing for mates with their daughters or granddaughters
– Female toothed whales share food and guide the group to find food when it is scarce
– Male whales do not have the same social structure to evolve “male menopause.”
– Female whales often outlive males of their species
– Whales and humans have similar life histories that evolved independently
– Post-reproductive females play a crucial role in dealing with environmental challenges
– Menopause has evolved in only six out of more than 5,000 mammal species
– The study was funded by the Leverhulme Trust and the Natural Environment Research Council.

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