23 January, 2020, 2:00 pm

The evolution of menopause in resident killer whales

Dr. Dan Franks

Leeds City Museum

All Welcome

Female killer whales go through menopause. Why females of some species cease ovulation before the end of their natural lifespan is a longstanding puzzle in life-history evolution. In humans, as well as some natural populations of cetaceans and insects, reproductive aging occurs much faster than somatic aging and females exhibit prolonged post-reproductive lifespans (PRLSs). Determining the mechanisms and functions that underpin PRLSs has proved a significant challenge. Here I bring together both classic and modern hypotheses proposed to explain PRLSs and life-history evolution and discuss their application with particular reference to our studies of killer whales. In doing so I highlight the need to consider multiple interacting explanations for the evolution of PRLSs and discuss the key role of social structure.


Dr. Dan Franks joined the University of York in 2006 as an RCUK Research Fellow, where he is now Reader in Biology. He is a joint appointment between the departments of Biology and Computer Science. He works on animal life-history evolution and social networks, and uses field studies, data-science, modelling, and AI to study questions in behavioural ecology.