close up of a chimpanzee
Photo by Neal Smith on

Humans and some whales are the only known species in which females live long after they stop being able to reproduce.

A new paper in the journal Science on Thursday argues that chimpanzees should now be added to the list, and offers clues about the evolutionary imperatives behind menopause in women.

"Chimpanzees have been studied in the wild for a long time, and you might think there's nothing left to learn about them,"  senior author Kevin Langergraber of Arizona State University told AFP. "I think this research shows us that's not true."

The vast majority of mammal females produce offspring until the end of their lives, but humans experience a decline in reproductive hormones and the permanent cessation of ovary function around age 50.

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