whales age

From: Pieter Arend Folkens (animalbytes@earthlink.net)
Date: Wed May 31 2000 - 10:52:48 EDT


>I am trying to find out how many years it takes a whale to reach its adult
>size.
>Emma

Dear Emma:
First of all, there are 80 species of cetacea (whales, dolphins, and
porpoises) and of those, about 30 have "whale" in their common name. This
collection includes baleen whales for which claves spend relatively little
time with it mothers and some toothed whales which are more social and
nurture calves for many years. So when the question is about whales
generally, the answer cannot be very specific as it crosses over two
suborders and many species in several genera.

Secondly, when one says adult, is sexual maturity the desired answer, or
physical maturity?

The general answer is that sexual maturity is attained at about 6 years 2
yrs. Females of endangered species tend to have calves at an earlier age.
In odontocetes (toothed whales) where social behavior includes males
fighting for dominance and the opportunity to mate, the age of first mating
tends to be later.

For physical maturity (defined as indicated by the ossification of cranial
sutures and vertebral epiphyses) the age ranges from the late teens to well
into the 30s.

Cheers,

Pieter Folkens
Alaska Whale Foundation

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