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After Menopause, Killer Whale Moms Become Pod Leaders

Stashed in: Leadership!, Science!, Whales, Orca and other Marine Life, Animal Groups, National Geographic

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Old whales make great leaders!

As one of only a handful of animals on the planet to live many years after menopause, killer whales have just provided new insight into the benefits of this seemingly strange reproductive strategy. Females that are past their child-bearing years go on to become group leaders with valuable survival skills, scientists report today in the journal Current Biology.

Theoretically, menopause should not exist. If the purpose of survival is reproduction, then there is no reason for an animal to stay alive when it can no longer have offspring. For killer whales, females stop reproducing at around 50 years old, which is also the age when most male killer whales are nearing the ends of their lives. Typically, though, post-menopausal females still have another 40 years to go.

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