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Gestation Periods of Mammals

Opossums have the shortest gestation period of all mammals: only 12 days. Gestation period is the time from fertilization to the actual birth in animals. In humans this period is 266 days or approximately 9 months.

The shortest gestation period known in mammals is approximately 12 days. It is shared by the American or Virginian opossum (Didelphis marsupialis); the rare water opossum, or yapok (Chironectes minimus) of northern South America and the eastern native cat (Dasyurus viverrinus) of Australia. All three of these marsupials give birth to their young while they are still at the embryonic stage. The young then find their way to a small pouch where they mature, like a kangaroo. This pouch stage lasts up to two months after which they stay close to their mothers for another month or so, usually holding tight on the mother’s back.

The longest gestation period known in mammals is that of the African elephant (Loxodonta Africana). These elephants carry their babies in the womb for about 660 days or 22 months. Camels and giraffes carry their babies for about 400 days. Other animals that have gestation periods closest to that of humans are: dolphins - 276 days, chimpanzee - 237 days and cattle - 280 days.


About the Author

Anton SkorucakAnton Skorucak, MS
Anton Skorucak is a founder and publisher of Anton Skorucak has a Master of Science (MS) degree in physics from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California and a B.Sc. in physics with a minor in material science from the McMaster University, Canada. He is the president and creator of, a comprehensive physics and astronomy online education, research and reference web site.

Further Reading
Simon & Schuster’s Guide to Mammals
by Luigi Boitani

Related Web Links
Opossum Reproduction and Life Cycle

Gestation Period and Pregnancy
by Elephant encyclopedia

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