Many animals give birth to live young like people do, this is referred to as viviparity. More specifically it’s when animals develop young in a womb, with a placenta. In this article we’re going to look at 15 examples of viviparous animals and learn a little bit about them.
Did you know that animals actually hatch from eggs inside their mothers before being born? This can give the appearance of live birth. Those are ovoviviparous animals, and they’re quite unique. Ovoviviparous animals actually grow their young in eggs, but instead of laying their eggs in nests like oviparous animals do, they keep the eggs inside their reproductive tracts, and the eggs usually hatch inside the mother.
There’s one more classification of animals when it comes to how they give birth, and that’s oviparous animals. These are the external egg-laying animals like birds.
With all that said, let’s move back to the topic at had and take a look at these viviparous animals!
16 examples of viviparous animals
Many of the animals on this list will be familiar to you, but some of the animals that give birth to live young will probably be surprising. Read on to see some great examples of viviparous animals!
Everyone loves puppies- even cat people. Dogs are a great example of a viviparous animals because almost everyone has at least some familiarity with puppies and lots of people have even been around dogs that are giving birth.
The size of each litter depends heavily on the breed of dog and on the individual mother. Dog litters can range in size from just one puppy all the way up to twelve, but the average across all dog breeds is five to six puppies per litter.
Like dogs, cats are a great example because pretty much everyone has been around kittens before, and even dog people love a tiny, fluffy kitten. Dogs and cats are also unique in that lots of people have been present when a dog or cat is giving birth, even people who live in urban areas.
Most cat mothers give birth to litters of about four kittens, which will be totally dependent on their mother for the first three weeks of their life. In fact, for the first week, they can’t even see! They’re eyes don’t typically open until they’re around seven to ten days old.
Horses usually give birth to a single foal, with twins being extremely rare and often dangerous for both the mother and the foals. A female horse may raise as many as sixteen foals during her lifetime.
Foals are born ready to take on the world. They can stand, walk, and trot almost immediately after birth, and most of them are able to run at a full gallop by the time they’re one day old. This is common with many herbivores, not just horses.
Yes, snakes! Many snakes actually give birth to live young. This is unusual for a reptile, but it’s more common than many people realize. However, true viviparous breeding is very rare in snakes. Most snakes that we think of as giving live birth are actually ovoviviparous, which means they carry their eggs inside their bodies, and the eggs hatch inside their bodies before the hatchlings leave the body.
Boa constrictors, however, are truly viviparous, meaning the young snakes are grown inside a placenta and the mother gives live birth with no eggs to hatch.
A whole lot of sharks, including many of the most famous and infamous species, give birth to live young. As with snakes, this is unusual- sharks are fish, and almost all fish lay eggs. But only about 40% of shark species lay eggs.
Great White Sharks, Bull Sharks, Hammerheads, Lemon Sharks, Blue Sharks, Sandbar Sharks, White Tip Reef Sharks, and Whale Sharks are just a few of the species that give birth to live young. The size of the litters vary, with larger sharks general giving birth to fewer young (1 or 2 for Great Whites) and smaller sharks giving birth to as many as 20 pups at once.
These tiny insects are mostly known for being garden pests and irresistible food for ladybugs. They’re also one of the only insects that gives birth to live young. Weirdly, they can actually lay eggs. So, a mother aphid may lay eggs in one year, and give birth to live young in another.
Aphids have two reproduction methods- sexual reproduction, and parthenogenesis. In sexual reproduction, a male and female mate, the female then lays eggs and her young will go through the typical insect life cycle. In parthenogenesis, the female gives birth to a clone of herself- the offspring are genetically identical. There are a variety of environmental factors that cause aphids to undergo parthenogenesis.
Almost all deer species give birth to one fawn at a time, and those fawns are almost always covered in white spots. In some species like elk and moose the fawns (called calves in these large deer species) are usually not spotted, but they still usually just have one at a time.
Like horse foals, deer fawns are born ready to walk, run, and stand all on their own. Unlike foals, fawns are often hidden deep in the bush while their mothers spend the day foraging for food. You may stumble across one of them one day, curled up in the grass and trying very hard to be still and hide. If you see one, leave it alone. People often assume these fawns have been abandoned and need help, but the mother is always nearby.
Rodents have made giving birth something of an art form. Or an industry. No other mammals and almost no other vertebrates can compete with rodents when it comes to reproduction. While they typically give birth to six or eight pups at a time, a female mouse or rat can have anywhere from five to ten litters of pups each year.
These is why rodents can become such a huge pest and are often among the most destructive of invasive species. They breed so quickly and in such large numbers that it’s almost impossible to control them.
Cows are domesticated animals that give birth to one calf at a time. The calves are born with the ability to stand, walk, and develop ability to run soon after birth. In large animals like cattle, growth and development of the young takes longer than it would in smaller creatures.
Dolphins give birth to live young, and because they’re air-breathing mammals that give birth underwater, they face some unique challenges that most mammals don’t have to deal with. Their calves are some of the only mammals that are not born head-first.
In most land mammals, the young are born head first because it’s physically easier to give birth to them that way, and it makes it easier for the newborns to take their first breaths. With dolphins, if the calf were born head first, they would likely drown before they were born.
Instead, they come out tail first, to keep them connected to their mother’s oxygen supply as long as possible. Once they’re out, the mother swims under them and raises them to the surface so they can take their first breath.
Dolphins are among the smartest animals in the world.
Seals, like dolphins, are aquatic mammals that give birth to live young. Unlike dolphins, seals can leave the water and rest on land. So, seals give birth on beaches or on the Arctic ice, which means they don’t have to worry about their newborns drowning.
They do, however, have to worry about predators. Some species, like Elephant seals and fur seals, give birth in enormous colonies on the beach, and the sheer numbers of adult seals helps keep their young safe from predators. In the Arctic, seals live alone, and hide their pups in dens they dig out of the polar ice. Unfortunately, polar bears are quite good at finding these dens.
Seals can hold their breath underwater for a long time and spend most of their lives in it.
Gorillas, Chimpanzees, and Orangutans, along with the other apes, all give birth to live young. Like us, they usually only give birth to one or two babies at a time, and their young tend to be dependent on their mothers for a very long time.
While their young aren’t quite as helpless as newborn humans, they share a lot of similarities with us in the way they are dependent on their mothers.
Monkeys are smaller than apes but they tend to still only have one or two babies at a time. However, it’s common for them to breed much more often than apes because their infants develop faster, and they reach sexual maturity at a younger age, too.
The common lizard, or viviparous lizard, lives in Europe and northern Asia and it’s one of the only lizard species in the world to give birth to live young. Uniquely, in the southern parts of its range, some populations lay eggs. That makes it one of the only vertebrates of any kind where individuals of the same species are able to utilize different methods of reproduction.
Giraffes have a special challenge when they give birth. Their height actually makes the birthing process somewhat dangerous. The newborn giraffes will fall six feet to the ground when they’re born.
They’ve managed to find a neat way to solve the problem, by making it a necessary part of the birthing process. It’s believed that the force of hitting the ground stimulates their breathing, as well as breaking the umbilical cord and the amniotic sac.
This one shouldn’t be a surprise. Humans give birth to live young, and our children, when they’re born, are more dependent on us than the young of any other species. They also take a lot longer to reach maturity!
While one baby at a time is the norm, twins are relatively common for us and as many as eight babies have been born at once from one mother!