Beaked whales (family Ziphiidae) are a diverse group of cetaceans comprising 6 genera and 21 species. The known taxa include: Mesoplodon (14 species), Berardius (Baird’s and Arnoux’s beaked whales), Hyperoodon (northern and southern bottlenose whales), Indopacetus pacificus (Longman’s beaked whale), Tasmacetus shepherdi (Shepherd’s beaked whale) and Ziphius cavirostris (Cuvier’s beaked whale). They are small- to medium-sized whales ranging in size from 12 feet (3.7 meters) to 42 feet (12.8 meters). To access their principle prey, deep-water fish and squid, they can dive to over 1500 m and stayed submerged for over 1 hour.
Beaked whales are distributed throughout the world’s oceans, inhabiting deep water beyond the continental shelf, from the tropics to polar waters. Despite being apparently fairly common in some areas, because of their offshore distribution and deep diving habits, they are rarely observed at sea and data on their natural history comes almost entirely from examination of stranded animals.
Research at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center:
Scientists within the Marine Mammal and Turtle Division are currently trying to learn more about the responses of beaked whales to sonar exposure. To learn more about this research, please visit our website.
Blainville's beaked whale. Photo by John Durban.