Evidence for a postreproductive phase in female false killer whales Pseudorca crassidens

Photopoulou, Theoni, Ferreira, Ines M., Best, Peter B., Kasuya, Toshio, and Marsh, Helene (2017) Evidence for a postreproductive phase in female false killer whales Pseudorca crassidens. Frontiers in Zoology, 14.

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Abstract

Background: A substantial period of life after reproduction ends, known as postreproductive lifespan (PRLS), is at odds with classical life history theory and its causes and mechanisms have puzzled evolutionary biologists for decades. Prolonged PRLS has been confirmed in only two non-human mammals, both odontocete cetaceans in the family Delphinidae. We investigate the evidence for PRLS in a third species, the false killer whale, Pseudorca crassidens, using a quantitative measure of PRLS and morphological evidence from reproductive tissues.

Results: We examined specimens from false killer whales from combined strandings (South Africa, 1981) and harvest (Japan 1979-80) and found morphological evidence of changes in the activity of the ovaries in relation to age. Ovulation had ceased in 50% of whales over 45 years, and all whales over 55 years old had ovaries classified as postreproductive. We also calculated a measure of PRLS, known as postreproductive representation (PrR) as an indication of the effect of inter-population demographic variability. PrR for the combined sample was 0.14, whereas the mean of the simulated distribution for PrR under the null hypothesis of no PRLS was 0.02. The 99th percentile of the simulated distribution was 0.08 and no simulated value exceeded 0.13. These results suggest that PrR was convincingly different from the measures simulated under the null hypothesis.

Conclusions: We found morphological and statistical evidence for PRLS in South African and Japanese pods of false killer whales, suggesting that this species is the third non-human mammal in which this phenomenon has been demonstrated in wild populations. Nonetheless, our estimate for PrR in false killer whales (0.14) is lower than the single values available for the short-finned pilot whale (0.28) and the killer whale (0.22) and is more similar to working Asian elephants (0.13).

Item ID: 50281
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1742-9994
Keywords: false killer whale, postreproductive lifespan, reproduction, Odontocete
Additional Information:

© The Author(s). 2017 Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0. International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Funders: Nature Conservation Society of Japan, US Marine Mammal Commission, Natural Research Foundation of South Africa (NRFSF), World Wide Fund for Nature, Japan
Projects and Grants: NRFSF 90782, NRFSF Scarce Skills Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
Date Deposited: 20 Sep 2017 07:31
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0603 Evolutionary Biology > 060308 Life Histories @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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