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1 October 2012 Growth and rapid early development of North Atlantic right whales ( Eubalaena glacialis)
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Abstract

Body growth of North Atlantic right whales (Eubalaena glacialis) was described from measurements of known-age live and dead individuals to gain insights into the nutritional needs and life-history strategies of this endangered species. Body lengths from 154 individuals revealed that calves more than doubled in size and attained three-fourths of asymptotic adult size by the time they had weaned at 12 months. Calves gained on average ∼1.7 cm and ∼34 kg per day while nursing during this extremely rapid growth phase. Mean predicted lengths and body mass were 4.2 m and 1.1 metric tons (mt) at birth, 10.3 m and 13.5 mt at weaning, and 13.6 m and 29.6 mt when fully grown. Growth of right whales was best described using a 2-phased Gompertz growth model and could not be fit using any of the single continuous growth models commonly used for other mammals. Rapid growth during dependency may minimize the risk of predation and maximize calf survival. Rapid calf growth also may maximize development of the mouth and baleen to optimize foraging efficiency of juveniles at the time of weaning, as well as improve reproductive fitness by reducing the age at which sexual maturity is attained. However, transferring the amount of energy needed to support the rapid postnatal growth of North Atlantic right whales may ultimately affect the intervals between pregnancies (>3 years) of mature females.

Sarah M. E. Fortune, Andrew W. Trites, Wayne L. Perryman, Michael J. Moore, Heather M. Pettis, and Morgan S. Lynn "Growth and rapid early development of North Atlantic right whales ( Eubalaena glacialis)," Journal of Mammalogy 93(5), 1342-1354, (1 October 2012). https://doi.org/10.1644/11-MAMM-A-297.1
Received: 25 August 2011; Accepted: 1 April 2012; Published: 1 October 2012
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