Rivenbark: Of women, whales and dependent males

October 13, 2012 

The first sentence in a recent news story made me want to wash my eyes out with vodka.

“Scientists have been hard pressed to explain why menopause happens so early in humans – there’s no obvious evolutionary advantage to having your reproductive system shut down decades before the rest of your body.”

Well, sure there is. I would “evolve” into a complete lunatic if I had to shop for diapers in wildly different sizes every week, churning out babies well into my 80s.

Yes, in all of the animal kingdom, it turns out that only killer whales and human females lose their ability to reproduce decades before they die.

I did not know this.

When I read it, I let out a long, low whistle, which is the sound my sistah whales make all the time now that I think about it.

Researchers think whale menopause evolved to reduce competition between different generations of reproducing women in one family.

But more interesting than that is this little nugget: Killer whale moms care for their sons well past the male whale’s 30th birthday and data proves that if the mom isn’t around, Sonny Boy whale is 14 times more likely to die within a year.

I suppose living in the whale family basement playing “Resident Evil 6” loses its appeal after mom stops bringing the bacon sandwiches downstairs.

Oh, wait. That doesn’t make any sense. Whales don’t eat bacon.

Turns out, male whales “struggle to survive” without their mama’s help.

I suppose this is because, without her, there is no one around to remind him that no one he dates is good enough for him and, really, must he hang around those sperm whales all the time? They’re a bad influence.

Research suggests that the mama whale is so protective of her son because she “wants him to give her lots of grand-whales.” Yes. That’s exactly what the scientists said: grand-whales.

Strangely, girl whales’ survival isn’t affected by the mama whale dying.

Scientists have an answer for that, too. They think it’s because once the daughter whale grows up, she leaves home and goes on the road with a band and forgets everything her mother ever tried to teach her about how “nothing good can come from staying out past midnight.”

Well, not in so many words but the idea is that girl whales take up with their partner’s family and pretty much do their own thing. Even then, it’s hard to be in a whale relationship because his mama is always sitting on the metaphorical couch between them.

If the daughter-in-law whale tries to bring home a nice piece of urchin, or whatever, the mama probably shrieks at her: “You know he’s allergic to starfish! You could’ve KILLED him.”

There’s still no word on how menopause affects the health of the whale moms but, from my own experience, I’m guessing more blubber around the middle. Oh, and a crabby attitude.

celiarivenbark.com

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