Human Journey

Killer Whale Moms and Menopause

Killer whales in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Photo by Steve Raymer, c. NGS.


Despite their fearsome moniker, it turns out that male killer whales are mama’s boys who have a hard time surviving on their own.  Scientists think that’s one of the reasons the female of the species go through an unusually long menopause.  (Female killer whales generally stop having offspring in their forties but can live into their nineties.)  These post-menopausal years can make a big difference for a male killer whale.  Researchers found that males who had lost their mothers — even mature ones — were fourteen times more likely to die than males whose mothers were still living.

Interestingly, the survival of female whales appears to be less affected by maternal mortality.  Scientists believe this may have something to do with how killer whale social groups are structured.

For all the latest science news, check out National Geographic Library’s twice-weekly news rundown, EarthCurrent.

  • Utkarsh Tiwari

    This shows that even in mammals ,the mother-son relationship is more stronger than the mother-daughter relationship………!!!!!

  • JWD

    A son is a son till he takes him a wife, a daughter is a daughter all of her life.
    Irish Saying

About the Blog

Researchers, conservationists, and others share stories, insights and ideas about Our Changing Planet, Wildlife & Wild Spaces, and The Human Journey. More than 50,000 comments have been added to 10,000 posts. Explore the list alongside to dive deeper into some of the most popular categories of the National Geographic Society’s conversation platform Voices.

Opinions are those of the blogger and/or the blogger’s organization, and not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. Posters of blogs and comments are required to observe National Geographic’s community rules and other terms of service.

Voices director: David Braun (

Social Media