The Guardian view on granny orcas: nothing to do with humans | Editorial

Fascinating work is being done on the family life of killer whales. But like research into New Caledonian crows, it has nothing to do with the way we live our livesEvolutionary biologists from British universities havefound new evidence to support their theory that, despite their infertile state,post-menopausal killer whales play a beneficial role in the lives of their grandchildren. The scientists have a serious purpose: they want to find out why orcas go through the menopause, a characteristic shared only by pilot whales and humans. But their work produces delightful insights, starting with the reminder that even orcas, most familiar from blood-soaked natural history documentaries, are in fact family-loving creatures that live in caring extended kinship groups, in which the females usually outlive the males by at least 20 years. So far, so very interesting. The danger comes when others take their research and use it to promote their own view of what constitutes a well-ordered society.Evolutionary biologists have been studying orcas for more than a decade in the search for an evolutionary benefit to the menopause that would explain why it happens. They now conclude that in mammal species where family groups stay together (rather than young males or females being forced to leave), there is a benefit in the form of whatthey term late-life helping. This is not a new idea: it originated in the 1950s. Onemore recent study suggested that it was actually mothering, not gr...
Source: Guardian Unlimited Science - Category: Science Authors: Tags: Biology Oceans Environment Animals World news Wildlife Science Human biology Sex Life and style Family Evolution Source Type: news

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