Blue whale reproduction

From: Phil Clapham (
Date: Thu Mar 06 2003 - 10:15:53 EST

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    Hi Lee:

    OK, here's the book you need (and it's even still in print!):

    Fontaine, P-H. 1998. Whales of the North Atlantic, biology and
    ecology. Editions Multi Mondes, Quebec.

    Allegedly available in paperback (ISBN 2-921146-58-4). This book has
    fantastic sections on anatomy, including excellent photographs. There's
    a whole section on reproduction.


    Lee Hollingsworth wrote:
    > Phil - thanks for your prompt reply. you have given me a few points i was
    > unaware of. I'm having difficulty getting hold of the book you suggested -
    > as you said i might - but it does exist & i'll keep trying!! I'd like to
    > ask one last favour - do you have pictures or more info on the anatomical
    > design of the reproductive system?(testes, penis, ovaries etc) i'm finding
    > it hard to get any pictures, even diagrams of this part of the whale
    > i'm very grateful for your time, thanks again
    > Lee
    > ----- Original Message -----
    > From: "Phil Clapham" <>
    > To: "Lee Hollingsworth" <>
    > Cc: "Ask2, Address" <>; "Williamson, Mike"
    > <>
    > Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2003 10:40 AM
    > Subject: Blue whale reproduction
    >>Hi Lee:
    >>Let's see... there's not a huge amount on this, but here's what I know.
    >>Gestation is assumed to be 11 months. Average length at birth is around
    >>7 m, and calves nurse for about 6-8 months before separating. Age at
    >>attainment of sexual maturity is believed to be 5 years, but this is not
    >>entirely clear. Females reproduce every two to three years and produce
    >>a single calf. The calving season (and therefore mating season also) is
    >>in winter, though whether there is any activity outside this time is not
    >>No one knows the duration of oestrus for any baleen whale. In other
    >>mammals, it varies from as little as 45 minutes (e.g. deer) to as long
    >>as eight days (some canids). There are zero data on oestrus in baleen
    >>whales, though in some species (e.g. humpback whales) females are known
    >>to cycle more than once a season; it isn't clear whether this is true
    >>for blue whales.
    >>The general female cycle is the same as for other mammals. Testicular
    >>activity in males - in terms of production of sperm - is seasonal,
    >>peaking during the winter breeding season. Blue whales have
    >>comparatively small testes for their body size: the average adult male
    >>has testes that weigh 70kg. if you think that's a lot, compare that
    >>figure to male right whales, which despite a smaller body size have
    >>testes that weigh one ton! this of course relates to the mating system
    >>- right whales clearly practise sperm competition. The mating system of
    >>blue whales in unknown.
    >>Its worth noting that the foetal growth of blue (and fin) whales is the
    >>fastest in the animal kingdom, some 20 times that of primates. Blue
    >>whale foetal growth accelerates rapidly in the last few months of
    >>gestation and the foetus grows at an astonishing rate.
    >>The bible on this stuff remains Whales, by E.J. Slijper. Out of print
    >>but still gettable (try It's out of date in some
    >>respects but is the best book ever written on whale anatomy, function etc.
    >>Other info is buried in various scientific papers, notably a review by
    >>Christina Lockyer on Baleen whale reproduction (Reports of the Intl
    >>Whaling Commission, Special Issue 6: 27-48, 1984).
    >>hope this helps!
    >>Phil Clapham
    >>Lee Hollingsworth wrote:
    >>>Hi - i'm currently studying animal management at Hadlow college, Kent
    >>>and am working on a presentation on the reproductive system of the blue
    >>>whale - no mean feat! I am also hoping to tavel to Tenerife to help
    >>>their whale & dolphin conservation project in the summer. can you tell
    >>>me how they physically reproduce, including oestrous cycle, ovarian and
    >>>testicular function. i already have a lot of info on gestation, calf
    >>>weight/size etc but would be very grateful for any help or
    >>>info/websites/books i could be looking at.
    >>>thanks very much in advance for your help
    >>>kind regards
    >>>Lee Hollingsworth
    >>Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D.
    >>Large Whale Biology Program
    >>Northeast Fisheries Science Center
    >>166 Water Street
    >>Woods Hole, MA 02543, U.S.A.
    >>tel. 508 495-2316
    >>fax 508 495-2066


    Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D. Large Whale Biology Program Northeast Fisheries Science Center 166 Water Street Woods Hole, MA 02543, U.S.A.

    tel. 508 495-2316 fax 508 495-2066 email:

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