Specific foetal growth rates of cetaceans

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Abstract

The numerous data in the International Whaling Statistics relating foetal length to date of catch have been studied. They can be used as alternatives to cube roots of foetal weights to give rates of foetal growth and for the computation of data of conception and foetal ages. There are major differences between the Mysticeti and Odontoceti. The main gestation period for the former is 10.8.±1-2 months and for the latter 14 ± 2 months. In both groups the greatest birth-weight is attained by an increased foetal growth rate, to such an extent in the rorquals that the gestation period in the largest is actually shorter than in the smaller species. There are dietetic and metabolic differences between the two sub-cohorts. The outstanding one is that pregnant mysticetes appear to stop feeding and lose body fat to the foetus during late pregnancy, at the time when the foetal increase in size is maximal. The causes of the differences in growth and metabolism of the two groups are unknown, apart from those imposed by differences in their ecology.

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