Killer grandmas
December 9, 2019 4:09 PM   Subscribe

A review of 36 years of data on pods of killer whales in the Pacific Northwest has found that "grandmothers who were no longer able to reproduce had the biggest beneficial impact on the survival chances of their grand-offspring." Press release, paper. Previously.
posted by clawsoon (7 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
“Why do post-menopausal women live so long?” science has asked for decades. Maybe they will finally figure it out now.
posted by jfwlucy at 5:14 PM on December 9, 2019 [9 favorites]

Was having a conversation with a family member last night about changing social structures and the loss of “(grand)mothers mothering the new mothers” as they start raising their first children in our current American cultural make-up. I am getting squinty about this Orca study, wondering if the “benefits” have been seen largely thru a traditionally male sense of benefits, e.g., fighting and foraging. Would love to see other researchers look at this as well.
posted by Silvery Fish at 6:42 PM on December 9, 2019

The benefits are simply that more of the grand offspring survive. The mechanism by which the grandmother’s presence increases in survival is unclear, although the authors have hypotheses.

I don’t understand the characterization of foraging behavior as “male.” This is what all orcas do, regardless of their sex.
posted by haiku warrior at 7:29 PM on December 9, 2019 [9 favorites]

The Grandmother Effect is an area of active research.
posted by rockindata at 7:33 PM on December 9, 2019 [6 favorites]

See also Wikipedia’s coverage at the Grandmother Hypothesis.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:49 PM on December 9, 2019

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy placed the Grandmother Hypothesis within the general question of alloparenting in her excellent book Mothers and Others.
posted by clawsoon at 5:29 AM on December 10, 2019

Our part-time/crappy wage economy seems to have been built in the backs of Grandmothers.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:30 AM on December 10, 2019

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