The other night, I was whining about human gestation, and how very long it is, and Dave said, "hey, at least you're not an elephant. For them, it's three years."
Three years???? How could this possibly be? How could you survive being pregnant for three years? I couldn't even imagine such a thing. It couldn't be true.
And indeed, it isn't. Elephant gestation is a year and three quarters. Which is still unfathomable to me.
And was that night. I lay there being unable to fathom it for quite some time. Why did it take so very long? Clearly elephant babies are bigger than people babies, so there's considerably more growth that has to take place, and growth takes time. But then sperm whales--inarguably much larger than elephants--take only 1.3 years to gestate.
Looking at an animal gestation chart--because you can find that kind of thing on wikipedia--size certainly has something to do with it. Small creatures are all in the same range(ish), midlevel, extra-large, etc., are all increasing as the animal gets bigger. But there are still bizarre anomalies--a mouse is pregnant for weeks longer than a possum, for example. And they have fewer babies. That's just not fair. The human gestation period is closest to that of a buffalo (which would be larger) and an otter (which would be smaller). Also cows. We're pretty close to cows.
Chimps are only pregnant for 34 weeks. Little poop-tossing bastards.
(If you play around with this stuff, you find yourself researching anything from how long a zebra's lifespan is, to when lions hit menopause. Oh, the places you'll go!)