Saturday, February 12, 2011

February 12, 2011 : Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Cuvier's beaked whale (
Ziphius cavirostris) is the most widely distributed of all the beaked whales. It is the only member of the genus Ziphius. Another common name for the species is goose-beaked whale on account of the fact that its head is said to be shaped like the beak of a goose. Georges Cuvier first described it in 1823 from part of a skull found in France in 1804.

Cuvier's beaked whale has a short beak in comparison with other species in its family, with a slightly bulbous melon. The melon is white or creamy in color and a white strip runs back to the dorsal fin 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 sharks. 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 meters (23 ft) in length and weighs 2–3 tonnes (2.0–3.0 LT; 2.2–3.3 ST). They live for forty years.

The Cuvier's beaked whale is difficult to distinguish from many of the mesoplodont whales at sea.

Their range is known mainly from strandings. It is widespread across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Individuals have been found as far north as the Shetland Islands and as far south as Tierra del Fuego. Deep waters are preferred in anything from cool to tropical habitats.

Because of identification difficulties, the global population is unknown.

Beaked whales may also be sensitive to noise. A higher incidence of strandings has been recorded in noisy seas such as the Mediterranean. Multiple mass strandings (beachings) have occurred following operations by the Spanish Navy.

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