Subject: whale birthing

Phillip J. Clapham (pclapham@whsun1.wh.whoi.edu)
Mon, 11 Oct 1999 09:30:43 -0400 (EDT)

Hi:
Well, very few whale births have been observed, and actually they're not
all tail-first.  There are a few records of cephalic (head-first) birth
(e.g. in gray whales), and some of caudal (tail-first) in various
cetaceans.  So unfortunately we don't know what the "rule" is, if there
even is one.  Whatever the "normal" method of birth, it is most likely
because of simplicity for the mother and efficiency of the birthing
process.  I don't know for sure why human births are generally head first
except that this would obviously be a lot safer (in terms of fewer likely
complications) than if the feet had to exit the vagina first.  A tail is
perhaps somewhat less likly than two feet to present problems, but one
would think a head would make it even simpler.	Perhaps the fact that the
tail may be less of a "snag" risk than feet explains why both heads and
tails have been seen in births - i.e. it may not matter that much which
comes out first (unlike in humans).
Lots of speculation, not much fact - sorry!

Phil Clapham