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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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Practices urged to support #vets4vultures

News Story 1
 Veterinary professionals are being urged to take part in the #vets4vultures online fundraising campaign. Vultures are persecuted throughout the world and numbers of some species have fallen by 99.9 per cent in recent years. Wildlife Vets International rescue and rehabilitate the birds of prey, as well as training local vets. However, the charity needs to raise £18,000 for its conservation plans to go ahead next year.

It has been selected for The Big Christmas Give Challenge, which goes live on 28 November. To help practices encourage clients to get involved, there is an online promotional pack containing resources for websites and social media platforms.

For more information emailinfo@wildlifevetsinternational  

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Avian flu text alert service launched in Northern Ireland

A new text system to alert bird keepers to the threat of avian flu has been launched in Northern Ireland. The service will enable bird keepers to take action to protect their flock at the earliest opportunity.

Keepers who have already provided NI's Department of Agriculture with a valid mobile number have automatically been subscribed to the service and notified by text. Bird keepers who have not yet received a text should text ‘BIRDS’ to 67300 to register.