Most animal die soon after the end of their reproductive years. Life continues after menopause for only three known species. These are killer whales, pilot whales and, obviously, humans. Experts have pondered for some time now what biological need this oddity serves and killer whales seem to have given an answer. As indicated by a new research distributed in the diary Current Biology, the female whales serve as a critical archive of data paramount to survival in troublesome times.
The whales are usually able to produce offspring between the ages of 12 and 40 but can live until they are 90 years old .
The older females act as leaders of groups when they move into salmon hunting areas. The analysts found that their authority becomes even more visible during times when the salmon is scarce. Salmon scarcity is a frequent cause of death in killer whale populaces. Thus, the analysts contend, the knowledge of where to discover nourishment in troublesome years could be paramount to the survival of whales.
Lauren Brent of the University of Exeter wrote:
“Our results show for the first time that one way post reproductive females may boost the survival of their kin is through the transfer of ecological knowledge. The value gained from the wisdom of elders can help explain why female killer whales and humans continue to live long after they have stopped reproducing.”
As far as humans are concerned, writing as a means to pass on knowledge is a rather recent development. For the vast part of mankind’s history, older, more experienced individuals would have been the keeps of essential knowledge including where to get food in bad years and other critical survival input.
Testing this theory in present day people would be exceptionally challenging. Humans have now numerous approaches to store and hold information. In most human societies there are likewise implicit shields to protect us in lean years.
Being illiterate, profoundly social creatures, killer whales can offer insight into the part of menopause.
Professor Darren Croft of the University of Exeter noted that for people, mounting proof suggests that
menopause is adaptive, even if some believe that it is a result of better living conditions. According to Croft , in hunter-gatherer communities one way that menopausal ladies help their family, and therefore expand the transmission of their own genetic heritage is by sharing food but also information.
One of the things the scientists found was that during challenging times, female killer whales were more prone to lead their male sons than the female ones. Accordingly, the sons have a higher chance of passing the mother’s gene to the next generation. Also, male killer wales usually mate outside the group so their offspring will not compete for resources with the mother’s group.
The research group merged 35 years of gathered data on an aggregate of 102 individual whales to make their inference.
Image Source: National Geographic