Whales and dolphins have big babies

Photo credit: Clark Anderson

Photo credit: Clark Anderson

For those of you with your legs still crossed after reading the average gestation time for whales and dolphins, I now present you with one more reason to really think twice about ocean living. It turns out at birth that many whales and dolphins enter the world already quite large. Here’s the low down straight from the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals: “In fact, neonate size ranges from approximately 29% of the female’s asymptotic total body length in most of the baleen whales to between 40% and 48% of the female’s length in the odontocetes.” (Just a reminder that odontocetes refers to toothed whales, i.e. dolphins, killer whales, sperm whales, belugas.)

Can you even picture a 2.5 foot tall baby exiting your body? Imagine the guilt trips whale and dolphin mothers can hold over their calves. “Don’t forget I brought you into this world when you were almost half my size! Do you have any idea the pain? Now stop playing around in the kelp and help find dinner…so ungrateful…mutter…mutter.”

The main question that remains is why? Why on earth have a child that large? Well, in the ocean whale and dolphin calves have to start swimming immediately and this large size assists in making that possible. This is pretty impressive. I mean think about it, human babies can’t do much of anything except look cute. That would be pretty crazy if a baby entered the world, landed on the hospital floor and started running. So which species is cooler, the one that just looks cute at birth or the one that looks cute and also swims? I vote for the swimmer. And kudos to mother whales and dolphins everywhere, you are the real heroes, I mean heroines.


  1. J Napoli says

    Great post, even for us guys who don’t have to give birth (although who knows what science can accomplish in the next few hours). As usual, you follow the funny with an understandable explanation that helps all of us land lubbers get the concept–thanks!

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