Do any animals other than humans undergo menopause?

Also, is there any difference between animals in captivity and animals in the wild as regards menopause? For example, even if menopause has been observed in a captive member of a particular ape species, do individuals of that species typically live long enough in the wild to also undergo menopause?

I guess here's what I'm really getting at: is menopause a common thing in the animal kingdom, or is it only a common thing in humans?

  • 4
    $\begingroup$ So now we have one answer saying it's common and citing a Nature article, the other saying it's uncommon and citing a Science article. Let me get my popcorn... $\endgroup$
    – arboviral
    Aug 11, 2016 at 9:14
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @arboviral Jacques linked to a summary of a paper. The original paper isn't looking at menopause per se, but rather at mammals that tend to live for a long time after menopause occurs. So it seems like the summarizer got it wrong. $\endgroup$
    – tel
    Aug 11, 2016 at 22:43

3 Answers 3


Yes. Menopause is common for long-lived mammals. For instance, in the wild, killer whales go in a sort of menopause as reported in 2009 by Ward et al. Front Zool. 2009 Feb 3;6:4. So it is not due to captivity. According to a Nature review, reproductive cessation has also been documented in non-human primates, rodents, whales, dogs, rabbits, elephants and domestic livestock (Packer et al. Nature. 1998; 392(6678):807-11)

  • $\begingroup$ As of 2017 you can add false killer whales to the list as well (Photopoulou, T., Ferreira, I. M., Best, P. B., Kasuya, T., & Marsh, H. (2017). Evidence for a postreproductive phase in female false killer whales Pseudorca crassidens. Frontiers in zoology, 14(1), 30. at frontiersinzoology.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/… ) $\endgroup$
    – ASimonis
    Nov 20, 2018 at 3:03

The ecological knowledge that older females have gained throughout the course of their lives can be extremely useful for the survival of their offspring. This is sometimes referred to as the "grandmother effect". For example, older females may remember key information about rare events, such as how to avoid/defend against predators, or how to find food/water in times of scarcity.

Check out this paper describing the grandmother effect in humans: Herndon (2009). The grandmother effect: implications for studies on aging and cognition. Gerontology, 56(1), 73-9.

And in killer whales: Brent, L. J., Franks, D. W., Foster, E. A., Balcomb, K. C., Cant, M. A., & Croft, D. P. (2015). Ecological knowledge, leadership, and the evolution of menopause in killer whales. Current Biology, 25(6), 746-750.


Only three — humans, killer whales, and pilot whales. (Reference)

Among long-lived animals, scientists have found only three species that undergo menopause: humans, short-finned pilot whales, and resident killer whales. What makes these species so special? A new study finds that it all comes down to their unique social structures.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Your link is a summary of Johnstone et al, Proc. R. Soc. B 2010. Here's the first couple of lines from their abstract: "Human females stop reproducing long before they die. Among other mammals, only pilot and killer whales exhibit a comparable period of post-reproductive life." $\endgroup$
    – tel
    Aug 11, 2016 at 22:37
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Long post-menopausal life and menopause are not equal. I can assure you that mice undergo an analogue of menopause. $\endgroup$
    – kmm
    Aug 12, 2016 at 18:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.