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‘Reproductive conflict’ could explain menopause
The mortality of older mothers’ offspring is 1.7 times that of younger mothers’ offspring.
Older orcas face higher offspring mortality than daughters - study
 
Conflict between mothers and daughters could explain why orcas are one of only three species - including humans - that go through the menopause.

Female orcas generally stop reproducing in their 30s and 40s but, just like humans, they can live for many decades after menopause.

Led by Darren Croft of the University of Exeter, an international team studied 43 years of data gathered by the Centre for Whale Research and Fisheries and Oceans Canada. They found the mortality of older mothers’ offspring is 1.7 times that of younger mothers’ offspring.

One of the main reasons for this ‘reproductive conflict’ between mothers and daughters is their reliance on food sharing. They forage together and often share salmon, with offspring commonly relying on their mothers for food for years.

Previous research by the team showed that post-reproductive orcas play a ‘grandmother’ role, sharing knowledge of when and where to find food, which increases survival chances for their family group.

Professor Croft explained: “Our previous work shows how old females help but not why they stop reproducing. Females of many species act as leaders in late life but continue to reproduce, but this new research shows that old females go through the menopause because they lose out in reproductive competition with their own daughters.”

Co-author Dr Daniel Franks, from the University of York, added: “…Our new work shows that if an old female killer whale reproduces her late-life offspring suffer being out-competed by her grandchildren. This, together with her investment in helping her grandchildren, can explain the evolution of menopause.”

Follow up work by the team will involve the use of drones to study orca behaviour more closely, including closer analysis of mother-daughter conflicts.

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Mission Rabies 2017 off to a great start

News Story 1
 More than 4,500 dogs have been vaccinated against rabies in one of the first major drives of 2017.

It took just two weeks in January for Mission Rabies to vaccinate 4,575 dogs in the Meru district of Tanzania.

The team set-up vaccination points across the district and followed-up with door-to-door work, checking vaccination cards and giving vaccines to any dogs that had been missed.

Overall, the charity reached 75 per cent of the local dog population, smashing last year's total and comfortably above the required 70 per cent.  

News Shorts
US science association honours leading Pirbright scientist

A leading scientist at The Pirbright Institute has been honoured by the American Association for the Advancement of Science as a 2017-2018 AAAS Alan I. Leshner Leadership Institute Public Engagement Fellow.

Dr Anthony Wilson, group leader for integrative entomology at Pirbright, was chosen from a large number of international applicants, together with 14 other infectious disease researchers from around the world.

In selecting the new Public Engagement Fellows, the AAAS said they had demonstrated, "...leadership and excellence in their research careers and interest in promoting meaningful dialogue between science and society".