Ecological Knowledge, Leadership, and the Evolution of Menopause in Killer Whales

  title={Ecological Knowledge, Leadership, and the Evolution of Menopause in Killer Whales},
  author={Lauren J. N. Brent and Daniel W. Franks and Emma Foster and Kenneth C. Balcomb and Michael A. Cant and Darren P. Croft},
  journal={Current Biology},

Figures from this paper

Reproductive Conflict and the Evolution of Menopause in Killer Whales

Benefits of Menopause: Good Fishing

  • C. Schubert
  • Environmental Science
    Biology of reproduction
  • 2015
The findings suggest that older females serve as a repository of ecological information, enabling whales to survive when food is scarce, and suggest that menopause is about more than finding food, say the researchers.

Why don’t long-finned pilot whales have a widespread postreproductive lifespan? Insights from genetic data

This work uses a dataset of 1522 individuals comprising 22 pods to investigate patterns of reproduction and relatedness in long-finned pilot whales Globicephala melas, and finds a similar relatedness structure to whales with PRLS: pods appear composed of related matrilines, andrelatedness of females to their pod increases with age, suggesting that this species could benefit from late-life help.

Analyses of ovarian activity reveal repeated evolution of post-reproductive lifespans in toothed whales

This study presents a method for measuring the relative rate of reproductive senescence in toothed whales using published physiological data and finds that three species have a significant post-reproductive lifespan: short-finned pilot whales, beluga whales and narwhals.

A long postreproductive life span is a shared trait among genetically distinct killer whale populations

The results highlight the important role of kinship dynamics in the evolution of a long postreproductive life span in long‐lived mammals, while further implying that the timing of menopause may be a robust trait that is persistent despite substantial variation in demographic patterns among populations.

Nearby grandmother enhances calf survival and reproduction in Asian elephants

That elephant grandmothers increased their inclusive fitness by enhancing their daughter’s reproductive rate and success irrespective of their own reproductive status suggests that fitness-enhancing grandmaternal effects are widespread, and challenge the view that grandmother effects alone select for menopause coupled with long post-reproductive lifespan.

Diving beneath the surface: long-term studies of dolphins and whales

Although aquatic mammals are elusive subjects, long-term studies of cetaceans have revealed remarkable lifehistory traits, including long life spans, bisexual philopatry, prolonged maternal care, and

Evidence for a postreproductive phase in female false killer whales Pseudorca crassidens

BackgroundA substantial period of life after reproduction ends, known as postreproductive lifespan (PRLS), is at odds with classical life history theory and its causes and mechanisms have puzzled

Social Change in Cetacean Populations Resulting from Human Influences

It is concluded that a more comprehensiveUnderstanding of the social mechanisms operating within and between cetacean social groups will enable a fuller understanding of the welfare implications of human-induced rapid environmental change.

Postreproductive lifespans are rare in mammals

Post‐reproductive stages are rare in mammals and are limited to humans and a few species of toothed whales, but clarity is provided for researchers in the field of evolutionary biology and a solid foundation for further studies investigating the evolution and adaptive significance of this unusual life history trait is provided.



Eusociality, menopause and information in matrilineal whales.

The evolution of menopause in cetaceans and humans: the role of demography

It is shown that the very different social structures of great apes and menopausal whales both give rise to an increase in local relatedness with female age, favouring late-life helping, which can help to explain why, of all long-lived, social mammals, it is specifically among the great ape and toothed whales that menopause and post-reproductive helping have evolved.

Reproductive conflict and the separation of reproductive generations in humans

It is suggested that early reproductive cessation in humans is the outcome of reproductive competition between generations, and a simple candidate model of how this competition will be resolved is presented and offers an improved understanding of the evolution of menopause.

Cetacean societies : field studies of dolphins and whales

This volume should be of benefit to students of cetology and researchers in other areas of behavioral and conservation ecology, as well as anyone with a serious interest in the world of whales and dolphins.

Antiquity of postreproductive life: Are there modern impacts on hunter‐gatherer postreproductive life spans?

Effects of the modern world on hunter‐gatherer adult mortality, with special reference to the Hadza, suggests that such effects are not sufficient to deny the existence of substantial life expectancy at the end of the childbearing career.

Linking killer whale survival and prey abundance: food limitation in the oceans' apex predator?

It is shown, using 25 years of demographic data from two populations of fish-eating killer whales in the northeastern Pacific Ocean, that population trends are driven largely by changes in survival, and that survival rates are strongly correlated with the availability of their principal prey species, Chinook salmon.

Adaptive Prolonged Postreproductive Life Span in Killer Whales

Using multigenerational records for two killer whale populations in which females can live for decades after their final parturition, it is shown that postreproductive mothers increase the survival of offspring, particularly their older male offspring.

A critique of the grandmother hypotheses: Old and new

  • J. S. Peccei
  • Biology
    American journal of human biology : the official journal of the Human Biology Council
  • 2001
This paper critically evaluates the evidence for and against both the grandmother hypothesis and the new grandmother hypothesis, focusing on key predictions of each.

Quantifying the effects of prey abundance on killer whale reproduction

The results provide strong evidence for reproductive senescence in killer whales, and more importantly, that killer whale fecundity is strongly tied to the abundance of Chinook salmon, a species that is susceptible to environmental variation and has high commercial value to fisheries.