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Orca Menopause Possibly Explained by Dead Sons
By Angela Messina, September 15, 2012 @ 11:00 AM (EST)
Source: New Scientist

An extensive 36-year study conducted off the coast of Washington state and British Columbia examined orca mothers and specifically sought answers for why they experience extended menopauses. Orcas, pilot whales, and humans are the only known animals that undergo such long periods of menopause.

Results from the study suggest that a mother’s lengthened menopausal period might help to ensure the survival of her sons. Researchers found that after the death of the his mother, a male orca over the age of 30 years-old was 14 times more likely to die in the following year.

Interestingly, an adult female orca is not nearly as affected by the death of her mother.

Scientists believe that this finding helps to explain why orcas experience longer menopauses, theorizing that in helping their male offspring to survive, mother orcas are helping to ensure that their genes will be passed on to another generation.

Read more in the New Scientist article.

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