Ladies, the Heat is On!

Animals That Go Through Menopause

You’ve got the air-conditioning cranked. You’ve invested in a white noise machine to help you get a little sleep. And your patience is wearing thin in a whole new way these days. There’s nothing fun about going through menopause, but ladies, did you know we’re not the only ones in the animal kingdom that suffer through it?

To be frank, we’re an oddity. Most animals keep on popping out babies until they reach old age. However, many toothed whales work a lot more like humans do where they reproduce for a number of years and then, when those years come to an end, they’ll keep right on trucking.

Let’s take a look at some animals in the wild that go through menopause:

1. Short-finned Pilot Whales

Pilot whale mom and calf | Photo @ Clair EversThese whales can live up to 60 years. That is, if they’re female. Males usually die around the age of 45. Female Short-finned Pilot Whales reach sexual maturity when they turn about 10 years old. Once they reach that age they’ll begin to have their calves every five to eight years until they reach menopause.

2. Belugas

Beluga pod | Photo: Shafik Diwan, CWF Photo Club

Belugas are long-lived creatures. They can live up to 75 years in the wild. That’s a lot of birthday candles to blow out! Females reach sexual maturity between eight and 14 years of age. Once they do, they will go on to have calves (one at a time) about every three years, until they reach menopause.

3. Narwhals

Narwhals

Female Narwhals reach sexual maturity between eight and 12 years of age. After which, they’ll have one calf at a time. They usually give birth to a new calf every three years, although it may even be longer. Eventually, their reproductive years end and they move into menopause, living up to 50 years (although most live less than 30 years).

4. Killer Whales

killer whales | Photo: Kari Watkins, CWF Photo Club

Killer Whales don’t live quite as long as these other whale species. Males will live on average 30 years, while females can expect to live until about 50 years of age. These social marine mammals don’t give birth to their first calf until they are about 15 years old. Once their reproductive years are through, they will take care of their young’s calves. Talk about a tight knit family!

What’s the Point?

So what’s the point of going through menopause and living on into our golden years? To be honest, it’s a bit of a mystery. Some researchers argue that we can thank the grandmother hypothesis. This idea suggests that older females will opt to support their grandbabies instead of going on to bear more of their own children or young.

While this idea works for social creatures like the Killer Whale, not all whale species are as social. And also…wouldn’t species like elephants evolve to have menopause? They’re awfully social and take care of their grandchildren and yet there are no signs that they go through menopause.

There doesn’t seem to be a clear cut answer as to why menopause exists in animals yet. What do you think?

Copycat Killers

While these five animals might not have studied up on some of the vilest murderers humanity has ever seen, they do seem to be rather astute copycat killers.

Vlad the Impaler
Copycat: The Shrike

loggerhead shrike

Like Vlad the Imapler, a 15th century Romanian madman, the shrike also impales its victims (on branches).

However, it does so because it lacks the talons that most birds of prey come equipped with to kill their next meal. Nevertheless, shrikes make do by impaling several prey at a time. This allows them to store food away. When they’re feeling peckish, they’ll have an array of snacks to choose from.

It also helps males attract females; it seems the bigger the stack of impaled prey a male collects, the more likely he is to be chosen as a mate!

It’s also practical for some shrike species, like the Loggerhead Shrike, as these birds enjoy eating monarch butterflies. Since monarchs store poison in their systems which protect them from most predators, shrikes allow these prey to sit on a spike for days on end, allowing the toxins to degrade, until it’s safe to eat the butterflies.

Hannibal Lecter
Copycats: Eagles and Hawks

bald eagle with catch

Hannibal Lecter ate some of his victims with fava beans and a nice Chianti. But others he ate alive.

Eagles and hawks have also been known to consume their prey alive. Unless, that is, they put up too much of a fight. Their victims generally die of massive blood loss or organ failure. Gulp.

The Boston Strangler
Copycat: The Black-footed Ferret

The Black-footed Ferret has taken a cue from the Boston Strangler by strangling its primary prey — Prairie Dogs — to death.

Studies show that after the ferret crawls into the prairie dog’s burrow, it will sneak on top of the rodent, paw at it to wake it from its slumber and then grip the dog’s throat with its jaws, strangling it to death. Strangling, you say? More like biting? Nope. Most Prairie Dogs do indeed die from suffocation. Creepy.

Charles Manson
Copycat: The Killer Whale

killer whale or orca pod

Charles Manson led a group of followers which became known as the Manson Family, to carry out a series of gruesome murders – all in the height of the love-filled sixties.

Killer Whales also work in tandem to hunt larger prey. However, these mammals do so strictly as a means for survival. Remarkably, killer whales work silently in pods of up to 40 individuals. They do this in order to hear larger prey like whales and sharks. It is only after they’ve gone in for the kill that they begin to vocalize with one another.

 

Dracula
Copycat: The Lamprey

lamprey

Dracula isn’t the only one who wants to suck your blood! Give the Lamprey a chance and you’ll most definitely regret it.

These jawless fish latch onto the flesh of other fish or marine mammals with a funnel like mouth and sucks the blood from their prey. They’ve been known to attach onto a host for months until they’ve either had enough or the host dies.

Scared yet?

Well, visit the Canadian Wildlife Federation’s “Halloween Central” to read some truly horrifying stories! You can also download free wildlife pumpkin-carving templates, get yummy recipes and send free spooky Halloween e-cards! Happy Halloween!