Female killer whales are said to use menopause as an opportunity to begin passing down information that will help their families survive, according to new research. It’s been previously suggested that menopause is a reaction to advancing medical treatments, and even medications that people are now exposed to. However, the study suggests that this simply isn’t the case, at least not in real-time practice. The study suggests that instead of this being an adaptive trait that has been picked up over the years – the body going through menopause – like in the killer whale – actually has significant benefits to those around them.
The study pointed out that this could be seen in hunter-gatherers, and Darren Croft the co-author of the paper which was featured in the journal called Current Biology said, “one way that menopausal women help their relatives, and thus increase the transmission of their genes, is by sharing food. Menopausal women may have also shared another key commodity–information.”
The team found that as they studied more than 100 species, over the course of more than 35 years – that especially in orcas – females would essentially serve as “repositories of ecological knowledge.” Even though they are not reproducing, this lends itself to the very straightforward notion that their use to the species far outlives that ability. Ultimately, the team pointed out that this is important because it shows that they are boosting the ability of their species and family to continue living – even beyond those fertile years – and that’s something that science has had wrong to this point.
It combats the theory that menopause is something that is ultimately developed over a long – generational period of time. The team also went on to point out and find that they actually have more to do with the male children or male members of the family simply due to the impact that they can have on the species, and the impact that the son can have on passing the mother’s genes on to another generation. That being said, that creates a primal sense of passing on genes in mothers that were previously not seen, and something that goes beyond medicine or simple paternal instinct. It’s about survival of the species, and there is a very good reason that they can live for decades after going through menopause.