Do other mammals go through the menopause?
It's rare amongst mammals, but for humans and a few whales, losing the ability to reproduce with age might help their children's offspring survive.
Asked by: Louise Sanders, Sheffield
Humans, killer whales and pilot whales are the only mammals that experience menopause. We all share a relatively long lifespan that involves mothers living in close quarters with their daughters. It is thought that the older females have therefore evolved to forfeit their ability to reproduce so that they can use their time and energy to nurture their daughters’ offspring, as they are more likely to survive than the ageing female’s young. This is known as the ‘grandmother hypothesis’. Also, grandmothers do not want to compete for vital resources, such as food – another good reason to evolve a menopausal strategy.
Subscribe to BBC Focus magazine for fascinating new Q&As every month and follow @sciencefocusQA on Twitter for your daily dose of fun science facts.
- Try your first 6 issues for just £9.99 when you subscribe to BBC Science Focus Magazine.
- Risk - free offer! Cancel at any time when you subscribe via Direct Debit.
- FREE UK delivery.
- Stay up to date with the latest developments in the worlds of science and technology.