Why Orca Grandmas Matter

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In 2016, a killer whale estimated to be at least 75 years old and possibly older than 100, catches and shares a salmon with a recently orphaned whale, presumed to be her granddaughter.

In 2016, a killer whale estimated to be at least 75 years old and possibly older than 100, catches and shares a salmon with a recently orphaned whale, presumed to be her granddaughter.

A new study suggests that by going into menopause, killer whale grandmothers end competition with their offspring and increase the survival chances of their grandcalves.

In humans this is called the “grandmother effect” and it is one hypothesis that may explain why humans can live so long. Turns out, this may also be the case with killer whales.

The study was published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and may explain why some whale species live for extended periods after their reproductive life ends.

Killer whales can live as long as humans and the study found evidence that orca grandmothers will help their grandcalves find food in lean times, making their role even more critical in conservation efforts.

You can read more about it in the New York Times.