What would have happened if humans never evolved to become menopausal?

Only three known mammals experience the menopause - orcas, short-finned pilot whales, and us humans. Even our closest genetic relatives, chimpanzees, don't go through the menopause- their fertility peters out with age, and in the wild, they hardly ever live beyond childbearing years. But thanks to what appears to have been a freak mutation, purely by chance, female humans also managed to evolve to be menopausal, just like female orcas. And thus, they became capable of living long, active post-reproductive lives, instead of simply dying soon after they became incapable of reproducing as all other apes do.

So, here's a hypothetical scenario- what if the freak mutation which was responsible for the menopause, and which extended the span of female humans' lives beyond their childbearing years in the same manner as Orcas, had never happened? And as such, what if human females simply died shortly after they became infertile, in the same way which their evolutionary ancestors did, and the same manner that our evolutionary cousins still do, instead of continuing to live on long after their reproductive value has been nullified? How different would our world, society and human civilization be, if humans had never evolved to be menopausal, and if the average woman's maximum life expectancy was capped at around 55 years as a result?


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Most Helpful Girl

  • We'd probably have died out. In pre modern times, women had a high chance of dying in childbirth and also children had a high mortality rate. So if a woman lived long enough to stop having children, but could still help raise them and gather food (women provided the most calories, but men provided more protein in early human existence), the whole group benefitted.

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    • 3mo

      Humans are pretty unique in how long it takes our young to be self sufficient being why it takes a group effort to really thrive.

Most Helpful Guy

  • then our population might be smaller although widowed men may just find younger women to partner up with
    less burden on social services (medicare, social security, etc)
    fewer people would a grandmother

    but a bigger question to ask is would women simply die? menopause is only the deterioration of the ovaries so they are no longer capable of producing off spring and thus menstruation ends. it isn't a disease or illness so there is nothing to suggest that a woman who didn't go through menopause would for any reason become ill.

    also from what i know menopause does occur in chimps and a few monkey species, elephants, and several marine animals

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What Girls Said 1

  • It would be weird

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What Guys Said 4

  • well I don't know much about it but I imagine it has to do with the fact that we are able to have sex year long, that is we do not have a set mating period, so this actually helped create our system that we have, it allowed for constant competition for mates rather then once a year and it also meant that our population was more secure since we could reproduce at any time vs once a year. So chances are we would not be where we are today if that was not the case, our population would not have grown as quickly nor would we recover from population loss as quickly and without that constant struggle to compete for mates we probably would not have advanced as fast as we would only compete once a year.

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  • They didn't used to live as long as we do now. In tribal days an "old" person was about 45 and that was at or very near the limit. They were no longer bearing children but helping out the rest of the tribe with gathering, cooking etc

    So if they weren't around for a few more years to do that stuff and teach the younger generation, humans may have stayed a tribal species a little longer.

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  • Women would be more of a commodity just as they were before education was allowed them.

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  • Nothing would have happened.

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