beaked whale

World’s rarest whale seen for first time

Spade-toothed beaked whales were first discovered in 1872 when bone fragments were found on a remote Pacific island, but until now the species has remained entirely hidden from human view.

In the 140 years since they were first discovered, the only sign that the creatures’ continued existence lay in two partial skulls found in New Zealand in the 1950s and Chile in 1986.

Now scientists have reported a complete description of the whales, which are thought to spend most of their lives in the deep waters of the Pacific Ocean, only rarely coming to the surface.

The Mother and her male calf were stranded on Opape Beach at the northern tip of New Zealand in December 2010 but were initially thought to be of a much more common species known as Gray’s beaked whales.

It was only after routine DNA analysis that experts realised their true identity.

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 Photo: New Zealand Government - shows a Gray’s beaked whale!

Indopacetus pacificus is a very poorly-known cetacean; in fact, until 2003 it was only known from two skulls. As of 2012 the species was known from 15 specimens, so it’s surprising that in 2013 there was a mass-stranding of 7 individuals in New Caledonia. It is hypothesized they stranded as a result of Morbillivirus infection.

The animal pictured above is an adult female 5.6 meters in length. At least in this group, the male was more robust, with wider flukes and a dorsal fin set further back.

Garrigue, C. et al. (2014) Mass stranding of Longman’s beaked whales (Indopacetus pacificus) in New Caledonia (South Pacific). Report to the IWC SC/65/SM03


It took a while but i finally finished the outline of everybody! feel free to suggest anything for the form of a cetacean that you think could be corrected and I’d like ideas for a title too! I took the cetacean list from the Swiss Cetacean Society mobile app, all the folks are supposed to be there :) (yes there’s an aureole above the baiji dolphin) (i just miss them a lot)

While doing this, I noticed that not enough attention and love are given to the beaked whales. Maan, they’re so amazing and there’s a big bunch of them!

Colors will be coming when I’ll find a title

A Hawaiian Cuvier’s beaked whale with a totally missing rostrum—it’s not known whether this deformity is congenital or from an injury.

Either way, it doesn’t seem to affect her very much as she’s been seen multiple times and was even spotted in 2012 with a calf.

Photo and info via Robin Baird

This Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) stranded in the shallows of Carcar, Cebu Philipines in 05/03/13. It was taken to this sea pen for assessment before it could be released back to deeper waters. Finally was released after two days of rehab.


The skeleton of an Arnoux’s Beaked Whale (Berardius arnuxii) with a Gray’s Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon grayi — then “australis”) for comparison; the last image is a cleaner version from Beddard. Points of interest for the Giant Beaked Whale include the relatively small head, long neck with with only the first three vertebrae fused, low vertebral spines, and elongate lumbar vertebrae. Beddard remarkably stated the “proportions are curiously suggestive of some of the extinct aquatic Mosasaurians, as well as of some of the Dinosaurs”, although to me, this species looks like a toned-down Basilosaurus.

Beddard also mentioned the teeth being erectile and kept in cartilaginous sacs (?!?!). I haven’t seen this fact mentioned recently, so has it been disproven or is it really true and just poorly-known?

Flower W. (1872) On the recent Ziphoid whales, with a description of the skeleton of Berardius arnouxi. Trans R Soc Lond 8 203–234.

Beddard, F. (1900) A Book of Whales.



AMBER association has recorded what may be the first images of the Cuvier’s beaked whale under the Cantabrian Sea. Not often approach boats but on Friday (19/07/2013) they did in Bermeo.

three young females were sighted,  images of live animals are of great value, most of the information is obtained from dead animals

Fan-art of a recently (semi-) published hypothesis: that the bizarre internal structures on beaked whale skulls may be used for ‘visual’ sexual display, despite being surrounded by soft tissue. Apparently this bone — some of which is the most dense known — could still be detectable to an echo-locating beaked whale. The title of Gol'din’s article rather memorably calls them 'antlers inside’ and… I sorta ran with it.

Gol'din P. (2014) ‘Antlers inside’: are the skull structures of beaked whales (Cetacea: Ziphiidae) used for echoic imaging and visual display? Biological Journal of the Linnean Society DOI: 10.1111/bij.12337