Cuvier's Beaked Whale
Cuvier's beaked whale is the most widely distributed of all the beaked whale
Beaked whale
Beaked whales are 21 species of toothed whales, members of the family Ziphiidae, are notable for their elongated beaks. Beaked whales are one of the world's most extreme divers. They can dive for long periods—20 to 30 minutes is common, and 85 minute dives have been recorded—and to...

s. It is the only member of the genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Ziphius. Another common name for the species is goose-beaked whale because its head is said to be shaped like the beak of a goose
The word goose is the English name for a group of waterfowl, belonging to the family Anatidae. This family also includes swans, most of which are larger than true geese, and ducks, which are smaller....

. Georges Cuvier
Georges Cuvier
Georges Chrétien Léopold Dagobert Cuvier or Jean Léopold Nicolas Frédéric Cuvier , known as Georges Cuvier, was a French naturalist and zoologist...

 first described it in 1823 from part of a skull found in France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 in 1804. He thought it represented an extinct species — it wasn't until the 1870s that it was realized the type specimen represented a living species.

Physical description

Cuvier's beaked whale has a short beak in comparison with other species in its family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

, with a slightly bulbous melon
Melon (whale)
The melon is an ovoid-shaped, fatty organ found in the forehead of all toothed whales , including dolphins and porpoises and believed to be used in echolocation....

. The melon is white or creamy in color and a white strip runs back to the dorsal fin
Dorsal fin
A dorsal fin is a fin located on the backs of various unrelated marine and freshwater vertebrates, including most fishes, marine mammals , and the ichthyosaurs...

 about two-thirds of the way along the back. The rest of the body color varies by individual: some are dark grey; others a reddish-brown. Individuals commonly have white scars and patches caused by cookiecutter shark
Cookiecutter shark
The cookiecutter shark , also called the cigar shark, is a species of small dogfish shark in the family Dalatiidae. This shark occurs in warm, oceanic waters worldwide, particularly near islands, and has been recorded from as deep as . It migrates vertically up to every day, approaching the...

s. The dorsal fin varies in shape from triangular to highly falcate. The fluke of the whale is about one-quarter the body length. The whale grows up to about 7 metres (23 ft) in length and weighs 2–3 t (2–3 ). They live for forty years.

The Cuvier's beaked whale is difficult to distinguish from many of the mesoplodont whale
Mesoplodont whale
Mesoplodont whales are fourteen species of whale in the genus Mesoplodon, making it the largest genus in the cetacean order. Two species were described as recently as 1991 and 2002 , and marine biologists predict the discovery of more species in the future. They are the most poorly known group of...

s at sea.

Food and foraging

Cuvier's beaked whale feeds on several species of squid
Squid are cephalopods of the order Teuthida, which comprises around 300 species. Like all other cephalopods, squid have a distinct head, bilateral symmetry, a mantle, and arms. Squid, like cuttlefish, have eight arms arranged in pairs and two, usually longer, tentacles...

, including those in the families Cranchiidae
Glass squid
The family Cranchiidae comprises the approximately 60 species of glass squid, also known as cranchiid or cranch squid. Cranchiid squid occur in surface and midwater depths of open oceans around the world. They range in mantle length from to over , in the case of the Colossal Squid. The common...

, Onychoteuthidae
Hooked squid
The family Onychoteuthidae currently comprises approximately 20–25 species , in 6 or 7 genera. They range in mature mantle length from 7 cm to a suggested length of 2 m for the largest member, the Robust Clubhook Squid...

, Brachioteuthidae
Brachioteuthidae is a family of squid. It contains two genera and around six species.-Species:*Genus Brachioteuthis**Brachioteuthis beanii**Brachioteuthis behnii**Brachioteuthis bowmani ***Brachioteuthis picta, Ornate Arm Squid...

, Enoploteuthidae
Enoploteuthidea is a family of squid comprising approximately 40 species in 4 genera. Most species have a mantle length ranging from 3-13 cm. Hooks are present on all arms and tentacles...

, Octopoteuthidae
Octopoteuthidae is a family of squid comprising two genera. The family is characterised by tentacles which cease to grow after the paralarval stage; and the use of a penis, instead of a hectocotylus.-Species:*Genus Octopoteuthis**Octopoteuthis danae...

 and Histioteuthidae
Histioteuthis is a genus of squid and the only member of the Histioteuthidae family. It goes by the English name cock-eyed squid, because in all species the right eye is normal-sized, round, blue and sunken; whereas the left eye is at least twice the diameter of the right eye, tubular,...

; they also prey on deep-sea fish.

Range and habitat

Cuvier's has a cosmopolitan distribution in deep, offshore waters from the tropic
A tropic can refer to:In geography, either of two circles of latitude:*Tropic of Cancer, at 23° 26' 16" N*Tropic of Capricorn, at 23° 26' 16" S...

s to the cool temperate seas. In the North Pacific
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

, it occurs as far north as the Aleutians and in the North Atlantic
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 as far north as Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 in the west to the Shetlands in the east. In the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

, it occurs as far south as Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of a main island Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego divided between Chile and Argentina with an area of , and a group of smaller islands including Cape...

, South Africa
South Africa
The Republic of South Africa is a country in southern Africa. Located at the southern tip of Africa, it is divided into nine provinces, with of coastline on the Atlantic and Indian oceans...

, southern Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, and the Chatham Islands
Chatham Islands
The Chatham Islands are an archipelago and New Zealand territory in the Pacific Ocean consisting of about ten islands within a radius, the largest of which are Chatham Island and Pitt Island. Their name in the indigenous language, Moriori, means Misty Sun...

. It also frequents such inland bodies of waters as the Gulfs of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 and California
Gulf of California
The Gulf of California is a body of water that separates the Baja California Peninsula from the Mexican mainland...

 and probably also the Caribbean
Caribbean Sea
The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean located in the tropics of the Western hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and southwest, to the north by the Greater Antilles, and to the east by the Lesser Antilles....

 and Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...


Cuvier’s beaked whale may be one of the most common and abundant of the beaked whales, with a worldwide population likely well over 100,000. There are estimated to be about 80,000 in the eastern tropical Pacific, nearly 1,900 off the west coast of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 (excluding Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

), and over 15,000 off Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...



Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

 whalers in the past opportunistically caught Cuvier's, taking between 3 and 35 each year (before 1955). The species has been reported taken incidentally in fisheries in Colombia
Colombia, officially the Republic of Colombia , is a unitary constitutional republic comprising thirty-two departments. The country is located in northwestern South America, bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the...

, the Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

Swordfish , also known as broadbill in some countries, are large, highly migratory, predatory fish characterized by a long, flat bill. They are a popular sport fish of the billfish category, though elusive. Swordfish are elongated, round-bodied, and lose all teeth and scales by adulthood...

 fishery, and in the drift gillnet fishery off the U.S. west coast, where between 22 and 44 individuals died each year off California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 and Oregon
Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

 from 1992 to 1995.

Beaked whales may also be sensitive to noise. A higher incidence of strandings
Beached whale
A beached whale is a whale that has stranded itself on land, usually on a beach. Beached whales often die due to dehydration, the body collapsing under its own weight, or drowning when high tide covers the blowhole.-Species:...

 has been recorded in noisy seas such as the Mediterranean
Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean surrounded by the Mediterranean region and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Anatolia and Europe, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant...

. Multiple mass strandings (beachings
Beached whale
A beached whale is a whale that has stranded itself on land, usually on a beach. Beached whales often die due to dehydration, the body collapsing under its own weight, or drowning when high tide covers the blowhole.-Species:...

) have occurred following operations by the Spanish Navy
Spanish Navy
The Spanish Navy is the maritime branch of the Spanish Armed Forces, one of the oldest active naval forces in the world. The Armada is responsible for notable achievements in world history such as the discovery of Americas, the first world circumnavigation, and the discovery of a maritime path...



  • MNZ MM002092, collected Cape Kidnappers, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, 14 October 1988.

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External links

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