[MARMAM] New paper on foetal growth, birth size and energetic cost of gestation in southern right whales

Fredrik Christiansen f.christiansen at live.se
Tue Apr 5 10:30:38 PDT 2022

Dear colleagues,

My co-authors and I are happy to announce the publication of the following paper in the Journal of Physiology:

Christiansen, F., Uhart, M.M., Bejder, L., Clapham, P., Ivashchenko, Y., Tormosov, D., Lewin, N. & Sironi, M. 2022. Fetal growth, birth size and energetic cost of gestation in southern right whales. Journal of Physiology https://doi.org/10.1113/JP282351

The cost of reproduction greatly affects a species’ life history strategy. Baleen whales exhibit some of the fastest offspring growth rates in the animal kingdom. We quantified the energetic cost of gestation for southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) by combining whaling catch records of pregnant females with photogrammetry data on southern right whale mothers and calves from two breeding grounds in Argentina and Australia. The relationship between calf birth size and maternal length was determined from repeated measurements of individual females before and after giving birth. Fetal growth was determined from generalized linear models fitted to fetal length data from whaling operations between 1961 and 1967. Fetal length was converted to volume and mass, using the volume-to-length relationship of newborn southern right whales calves, and published tissue composition and energy content estimates. Fetal maintenance costs (heat of gestation) and the energy content of the placenta were predicted from published relationships and added to the fetal growth cost to calculate the total cost of gestation. Our findings showed that fetal growth rates and birth size increased linearly with maternal length, with calves being born at ∼35% maternal length. Fetal length increased curvilinearly through gestation, which resulted in an exponential increase in fetal volume and mass. Consequently, the cost of gestation was very low during the first (0.1% of total cost) and second trimester (4.9%), but increased rapidly during the last trimester (95.0%). The heat of gestation incurred the highest cost for pregnant females (73.8%), followed by fetal growth (21.2%) and the placental energy content (5.0%).

The paper is open access and can be accessed from the following link:

The article comes with a graphical abstract from what appears to be a 5-year old, and a smug picture of the artist himself. Enjoy!

Best regards,

Fredrik Christiansen
Assistant Professor
Zoophysiology, Department of Biology, Aarhus University
C.F. Møllers Allé 3, 8000 Aarhus C, Denmark
f.christiansen at bio.au.dk

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