Growing a baby is hard work and it doesn’t happen overnight. Human moms spend 40 weeks (or about 10 months) pregnant. Ask any mother and she’ll tell you that seems like a very long time. But compared to some animals, 40 weeks is a snap!
- At almost two years, elephants have the longest pregnancies of any mammal. Longer pregnancies mean more time for body and brain development.
- Giraffes are pregnant for 15 to 16 months and they deliver their babies standing up. The babies face a long drop to the ground and they need to be able to get moving soon after birth because of the risk of lions and cheetahs.
- Manatee mothers spend 13 months pregnant. Floating around in the water as they do probably helps them stay comfortable.
- Like manatees, camels have a gestation period (pregnancy) of 13 to 14 months. Maybe this is one reason they’re often cranky!
- Most insects lay eggs, but the velvet worm, which is related to both arthropods (insects and spiders) and worms, has live young. Mother velvet worms carry their babies for up to 15 months.
- Rhinos also spend about 450 days or 15 months pregnant. All five species of rhinos are endangered; their long pregnancies aren’t helping in increasing their numbers.
- Walruses are pregnant for about 15 months too. Their relatives, sea lions and seals, are typically pregnant for 13 months.
- Whales and dolphins are known for being good parents with long pregnancies. Orcas are pregnant for 17 months. A sperm whale’s pregnancy can last 19 months – almost two years!
- Black alpine salamanders live in the mountains of Central Europe. They bear live young and spend two to three years pregnant. The higher up in the mountains they live, the longer their pregnancies.
- Sharks bear live young and they can spend as much as 3 ½ years pregnant!
Questions and Answers
Question: What animal has the shortest pregnancy?
Answer: Opossums are pregnant for 14 days – two weeks! Of course, they do spend two to three months after birth carrying the helpless, undeveloped babies in their pouches.
Visit National Geographic to learn about seahorse dads and their pregnancy.