The Top 10 Animals With The Shortest Gestation Periods

Reproduction occurs in a variety of ways in different species, including bacteria, plants, insects, amphibians, fish, reptiles, birds, and mammals. However, the diversity extends beyond the reproductive process itself. Equally remarkable are the different lengths at which different species gestate! Mammals that carry a placenta, such as horses, humans, elephants, and domestic cats, usually have lengthy gestation periods that span from two months to nearly two years. Conversely, there are other animal species that give birth to their progeny in a couple of weeks.

We’ll learn about a few of the animals with the quickest gestation times in this article.

However, why do some animals give birth quickly?

In certain animal species, the size of the animal and its developmental stage at delivery are the two main causes of shorter pregnancies. Since smaller species age faster than larger species and grow faster than larger species, smaller species usually have shorter gestation periods. However, larger animal species—like elephants, for instance—can have a “bun in the oven” for over two years—the longest time for a mammal to go through pregnancy!

However, keep in mind that nothing about these animals is little, especially not their young. An elephant calf weighs about 200 pounds when it is born, and elephant mothers must carry their babies for longer periods of time in order to produce a youngster that large. An elephant’s protracted gestation period also guarantees that its newborn calves have a fairly developed brain from birth.

You will be amused to hear how rapidly some other animals create and give birth, in contrast to these excruciatingly protracted pregnancies. Most of the development of these newborn mammals happens outside of the mother’s womb, which results in their extreme small size and immaturity. These ten creatures (all mammals) have the quickest gestation times.

10 Mammals with the shortest gestation periods

Rank Mammal Length of Gestation
1 Virginia opossum 12-13 days
2 Water opossum 12-14 days
3 Hamsters 16-21 days
4 Eastern Quoll 20-24 days
5 Mice 19-21 days
6 Rats 21-23 days
7 Gerbil 21-25 days
8 Wombat 20-30 days
9 Muskrat 25-30 days
10 Domestic Rabbits 28-31 days

A quick overview of the top 10 animals with the shortest gestation periods

1. The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana)

The Virginia opossum, which is thought to be the solitary marsupial in North America, has a relatively quick gestation period—roughly 12 to 13 days.

When they are born, the baby joeys are about 0.5 inches (14 millimeters) long, roughly the size of a small jellybean. The newborn opossums have no fur and are blind; they do not resemble mature opossums at all. They crawl back into their mother’s pouch as soon as they are born and stay there for almost two weeks until they are completely grown. The Virginia opossum has litter numbers that range from 4 to 25, and females typically reproduce twice a year. After between 70 and 105 days, the baby joeys are weaned off of their mother’s milk.

2. Water opossum (Chironectes minimus)

The water opossum is a native of the Neotropics, known locally as yapok or yapock. They have relatively short gestation periods—roughly 12 to 14 days—just like the Virginia opossum.

A water opossum litter typically consists of three or four young. The newborn opossums crawl into their mother’s pouch and begin nursing as soon as they are born. By the time they are 38 days old, they have fur and have opened their eyes. The baby opossums are often too big to stay in their mother’s pouch by the time they open their eyes. After 45 to 60 days, the young opossums wean off and learn how to survive independently.

3. Hamsters

Another fortunate animal species with shorter gestations is the hamster. Depending on the species, a hamster’s pregnancy typically lasts between 16 and 21 days.With only 16 days on average, Syrian hamsters usually have the shortest gestation time. In contrast, the gestation period of Russian and Chinese dwarf hamsters can range from 18 to 21 days. Pregnancies in Roborovski hamsters can go up to thirty days on average.

Puppies, or baby hamsters, are born blind and nude, just like puppies are born in many other animal species. But they grow quickly; by the time they are 3 or 4 weeks old, they begin to look like little grownups.

4. The Eastern Quoll (Dasyurus viverrinus)

Only found in Australia, the eastern quoll, originally called the eastern native cat, is a marsupial cat. They take between twenty and twenty-four days to gestate.

The eastern quoll can give birth to up to 30 young at a time, and their litter sizes are fairly big. They only have six or eight mammae in their pouch, though, and the only joeys that survive are the first ones to cling to their mother. For the first ten weeks of their lives, eastern quoll joeys stay in their mother’s pouch. About 18 to 20 weeks is when babies wean off and start to become independent.

5. Mice

Depending on the species, mice typically take 19–21 days to gestate. These species not only have short gestation periods but also remarkable reproductive capacities. A single mother mouse may give birth to five to ten litters annually. Usually, these litters contain six or eight newborns at a time.

Mice pups, often known as infants, are born hairless, blind, and deaf until they are around three weeks old. Mothers breastfeed their kids for 21–28 days after delivery because of their newborns’ extreme helplessness. However, it is also common for new moms to cannibalize their litters.

6. Rats

In rats, gestation usually lasts between 21 and 23 days. Rats breed a lot, just like mice do. Up to twelve litters of two to twenty-two young can be born each year by a single mother rat.

The mother would typically gather the newborns and keep them in the nest after they are born. Until they are 14–15 days old and have the ability to open their eyes, the pups stay with their moms.

7. Gerbil

The gerbil is a rodent that lives in desert regions and takes 21 to 25 days to gestate. These animals are renowned for their capacity to hide their pregnancies and breed all year round. They don’t exhibit any overt pregnancy symptoms until right before giving birth! Gerbils typically have litter sizes of four to six, and the young weigh about three grams when they are born. For the first six weeks of their lives, gerbils are completely dependent on their moms and are born with closed ears and eyelids.

8. Wombat (Vombatus ursinus)

Native to Australia, wombats are marsupials with small legs. Their gestation cycle lasts between twenty and thirty days.

There is only one child born to a female wombat. The baby joey is carried in its mother’s pouch until it is nine or ten months old, much like all female marsupials. After 12 to 15 months, the baby joey is weaned off of its mother’s milk.

9. Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus)

North American muskrats are semiaquatic rodents. For 25 to 30 days, muskrats lay their eggs. During the first two weeks of their life, these organisms are blind. When their vision matures, muskrats emerge from their den for the first time to swim.

Muskrats can give birth to four to eight kits at a time and can produce up to three litters year on average.

10. Domestic Rabbits

Domestic rabbits, often known as bunny rabbits or pet rabbits, are well-known for being charming pets. In rabbits, gestation usually lasts 28–31 days.

Notoriety for these species also stems from their rapid reproduction. A female rabbit may give birth to one litter per month if she isn’t spayed or neutered. Not only that, but mother rabbits can become pregnant again in a few of minutes after giving birth.

Similar to gerbils, rabbits can be pregnant and not necessarily show it until a few days before delivery. It’s also common for rabbit moms to neglect their babies once they are born. They might just spend a few minutes a day returning to the nest to feed their litter.

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