Dataset Information


Postreproductive killer whale grandmothers improve the survival of their grandoffspring.

ABSTRACT: Understanding why females of some mammalian species cease ovulation prior to the end of life is a long-standing interdisciplinary and evolutionary challenge. In humans and some species of toothed whales, females can live for decades after stopping reproduction. This unusual life history trait is thought to have evolved, in part, due to the inclusive fitness benefits that postreproductive females gain by helping kin. In humans, grandmothers gain inclusive fitness benefits by increasing their number of surviving grandoffspring, referred to as the grandmother effect. Among toothed whales, the grandmother effect has not been rigorously tested. Here, we test for the grandmother effect in killer whales, by quantifying grandoffspring survival with living or recently deceased reproductive and postreproductive grandmothers, and show that postreproductive grandmothers provide significant survival benefits to their grandoffspring above that provided by reproductive grandmothers. This provides evidence of the grandmother effect in a nonhuman menopausal species. By stopping reproduction, grandmothers avoid reproductive conflict with their daughters, and offer increased benefits to their grandoffspring. The benefits postreproductive grandmothers provide to their grandoffspring are shown to be most important in difficult times where the salmon abundance is low to moderate. The postreproductive grandmother effect we report, together with the known costs of late-life reproduction in killer whales, can help explain the long postreproductive life spans of resident killer whales.

SUBMITTER: Nattrass S 

PROVIDER: S-EPMC6936675 | BioStudies | 2019-01-01

REPOSITORIES: biostudies

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