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Animals follow a variety of life cycles that are necessary for the species to survive in the wild. The general life cycle of an animal consists of three main stages: birth, growth, and reproduction. The life cycle of each species can vary in length and timing depending on several factors, such as type of environment, climate, and lifespan. Here is an overview of some of the more common life cycles among animals.

Mammals

Most mammals have a life cycle that is similar to humans. The cycle typically begins with the female giving birth to live young, which can then develop in the mother’s womb or outside of the mother. As the young grows, it will eventually become an adult and be able to reproduce. Mammals can typically reach sexual maturity in 2 to 4 years, and the majority of their lifespans range between 1 and 20 years. Some mammals, such as the bowhead whale, can have life spans as long as 200 years.

Insects

Insects don’t look too far different than humans in terms of the life cycle. Like mammals, the cycle begins with the female giving birth to live young. However, due to their smaller size, insects go through several stages of metamorphosis in order to reach sexual maturity. Depending on the species, the insect cycle can range from a few days up to multiple years.

Amphibians and Fish

Unlike mammals and insects, amphibians and most fish reproduce through external fertilization. The mate will release eggs and sperm into the water. The eggs are then fertilized and start to develop outside of the mother’s body. After hatching, the young typically spends their short life span in the water, until they reach maturity and can reproduce. Most species of fish and amphibians have a lifespan of up to four years, although some can live up to 20 years.

Avian Species

Birds also have a unique life cycle that begins with the female laying eggs. After they hatch, the chicks will take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months to reach maturity. Avians are unique among animals in that they can live up to 80 years in some cases.

Conclusion

The life cycle of an animal is an important factor for species survival and helps to ensure the species remains in its ecosystem. While mammals, insects, amphibians, fish, and avian species all have similar life cycles, there are significant differences that can help us better understand their roles in their native environment.

Life Cycle at-a-Glance

 

Mammals

    • Birth: Live young
    • Growth: 2-4 years
    • Reproduction: 1-20 years

Insects

    • Birth: Live young
    • Growth: Metamorphosis
    • Reproduction: A few days up to multiple years

Amphibians and Fish

    • Birth: External fertilization
    • Growth: Hatch outside of mother’s body
    • Reproduction: 1-4 years (some up to 20 years)

Avian Species

    • Birth: Lay eggs
    • Growth: Several weeks to months
    • Reproduction: Up to 80 years

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