Granny turned up several times over the past few decades. Photo by Center for Whale Research, 1998

The long unanswered question of why women go through menopause seems to have been finally answered. Experts from the University of Exeter, who have been observing and studying killer whales, have made a breakthrough. The female killer whales also go through menopause and these scientists have come to the conclusion that menopause is related to increasing the survival chances of the mother, the offspring, the next generation of children, and the entire clan.

These experts have observed two populations of killer whales belonging to the North West Pacific Coast of the US and Canada. As the female killer whales grow older, they pass on their food and knowledge of survival to her children and grandchildren, thus benefiting them all. If the female killer whale would have kept on reproducing, she would have not been able to share so much food and knowledge with everyone else, as her immediate children as well as her later generations both would need her care and food, thus putting everyone at a disadvantage.

This study has used 43 years of data collected by the Center for Whale Research and Fisheries and Oceans Canada and has been led by Professor Darren Croft of the University of Exeter. This research findings have been published in the journal Current Biology. Professor Croft informs that older female members of the group give more time to the entire family than the younger ones. The younger ones indulge more in competition. The older whales, thus, lose out in the reproductive competition and take on a grandmotherly role.  Professor Croft adds that menopause is an evolved characteristic that has come to be so due to conflicts and adjustments in the clan.