Gestation Periods in the Animal Kingdom

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Since our teacher is pregnant, I believe it’s only appropriate to address the topic that’s on everyone’s mind: childbirth. More specifically than that, the making of the child. No, I’m not talking about that, so get your mind out of the gutter. I’m referring to the gestation of mammals, more specifically the period in which the mother carries the embryo inside her as it develops until the time of birth. For humans, the typical gestation period can be anywhere from 8-10 months according to the Better Health website. However, there are some other animals in nature that experience different periods of gestation.

For example, elephants have one of the longest gestation periods in the animal kingdom. It may come as no surprise that it takes a long time to create something as big as an elephant. Typically, elephants are pregnant for an average of 95 weeks, which is over twice as long as humans are pregnant for. Because of this, elephants typically don’t have many offspring during their lifetime. Sadly, along with poaching, this is a main reason why elephants are at a high risk of endangerment and even extinction.

Surprisingly, not all huge animals take a long time to make. Hippos, for example, only take 8 months to be born, despite the fact that baby hippos are born about 4 feet long and can weigh anywhere from 55 to 110 pounds.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, there are also animals that have incredibly short gestation periods. The title of shortest period of gestation belongs to the opossum. After only 12-13 days after fertilization, a new litter of opossums is born. This seems ridiculous, but given the fact that they only live about 2-4 years, it kind of makes sense. Another animal that ranks high up on the short gestations is the gerbil, coming in at only about 25 days.

Other than gestation periods, there’s something else that accompanies childbirth, and that’s the birth itself. Humans don’t have it so bad when compared to the animal kingdom. For example, giraffes, after a long gestation of about 15 months, give birth standing up. This means that often times the baby giraffe topples six feet to the ground right after being born. We would think mother nature would do something about this, but the giraffes seem to be doing alright after being dropped on their heads as babies. Porcupines, on the other hand, have come up with an evolutionary solution to those spiny quills. Because porcupines are notorious for their quills it begs the question, “how do mothers give birth with those things on the baby?” Well, porcupine babies are actually born with soft quills, and later in their life these harden up to the weapons of destruction we all know.

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