Evolutionary reasons for menopause - the ability to impart wisdom to the clan

Aisling Grimley.

New research shows that beluga whales experience menopause - interesting to read why scientists think menopause occurs. Largely to reduce competition for resources within the family group. The matriarch lives on the protect and guide the younger members of the pod. They are valued for the wisdom and life experience.

A recent article by Sarah Knapton in London reports that a study by the University of Exeter shows that beluga whales and narwhals go through the menopause! Up to now, it was believed that humans, killer whales and short-finned pilot whales were the only species to go through menopause. Most species remain fertile right through their lives. I like the fact that in evolutionary terms the lead author Dr Sam Ellis says that 'for menopause to make sense in evolutionary terms, a species needs both a reason to stop reproducing and a reason to live on afterwards". It's been seen that with killer whales both male and female offspring stay with their mothers for life so as the group enlarges the mother competes directly with her offspring for food. A good reason to stop reproducing.  "The reason to continue living is that older females are of great benefit to their offspring and grand-offspring. For example, their knowledge of where to find food helps groups survive."

Research into our human ancestors suggests they also lived in large family groups and as the matriarch aged she was valued for her wisdom and ability to impart that wisdom and guide the younger members of the clan.


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