Whale and dolphin life histories

Humpback whale cow/calf pair

Humpback whales cow/calf pair

Ah to be a whale, dolphin or porpoise living in the deep blue sea. But what do they do all time, where are they going, how do they spend their days, how do they raise their young? These are all questions that researchers and scientists hope to understand by studying their life histories.

While living in the ocean seems pretty cool, there are definitely some things about ocean living I’m not too envious of. For example, whales, dolphins and porpoises only have one calf at a time, but the gestation time usually averages a year! That’s twelve long months for all the ladies out there reading this. And according to the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, the sperm whale and the killer whale win second and first place respectively for the longest gestation times. A sperm whale pregnancy lasts 14 to 15 months and a killer whale pregnancy lasts 17 months! Yikes.

This long reproductive cycle is one of the reasons it has taken whales a long time to recover from whaling. Plus, whales and dolphins take great care in raising their young and only give birth every two to five years. This long reproductive cycle is matched by long lives. Minke and gray whales live up to 60 years, sperm whales up to 70, fin whales up to 100 and bowhead whales may live to be 130!

It only makes sense that whales live longer than humans, you don’t get to be the largest animals on earth by accident. They obviously know something that we don’t.


  1. Bryan says

    Thanks for the great info! If only the human birthing process took as long as the killer whale’s, there might not be an overpopulation problem on earth, which of course affects the health of the oceans.

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