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Hawaii's Beaked Whales

There are over 80 species of whales and dolphins. New species of toothed whales are still being discovered. Eleven species have been described since 1990. Seven new species of beaked whales, family Ziphiidae, have been discovered in the 1900s. These secretive whales have just begun to reveal their habits and are rarely seen, let alone photographed (though we have been lucky enough to do so on more than one occasion). The most recent species of beaked whale, Mesoplodon peruvianus, was described in 1991.

Beaked whales are so difficult to observe that some have never been seen alive and only a few have been studied in detail. In addition to having a "beak" of differing lengths, beaked whales also have flipper pockets, depressions in the body wall into which their large flippers can be tucked. Males of the species have only a single pair of teeth and some resembling tusks. Females and juveniles are toothless.

They have an extraordinary ability to dive for long periods (they are seldom seen at the surface) and to great depths: 1,899 metres and possibly more, making them the deepest diving air-breathing animals known.


Scientific Name: Ziphius cavirostris

cuviers size comparison Cuvier's beaked whales appear to be one of the most abundant of the beaked whale family. Their foreheads slope gently to a slight beak that becomes less obvious cuviers size comparisonwith age. They have two teeth that are just visible when the mouth is closed.

Cuvier's beaked whales tend to travel alone (especially older males) or in groups of about 10. They are not acrobatic animals although they have been observed breaching. Their blow is not noticeable unless they have just completed a long dive. Their dives usually last from 20 to 40 minutes.


Scientific Name: Mesoplodon densirostris

Blainville's beaked whales are present off the Waianae Coast of Oahu for prolonged periods annually. They are regularly sighted in slope areas of 500 - 1000 m deep, with even deeper gullies nearby.

blainsville beaked whale The male Blainville's beaked whale is very odd looking. They have a pair of massive teeth protruding from bulges on the lower jaw that may become encrusted with barnacles. The females’ teeth do not erupt but they still have the bulges on the jaw. The jawbone of Blainville's beaked whale has a greater density than elephant ivory. This gives rise to one of its names; the dense-beaked whale.

Blainville's beaked whales perform short dive sequences at 15 - 20 second intervals followed by deep dives of up to 45 minutes duration. On surfacing the beak points skyward. After taking a breath, the beak is sometimes slapped on the surface and the animal may roll slightly before disappearing. Their blow or spout is small but can be seen on a clear day to project forward.

Blainville's Beaked Whale images from Wild Side charters.


Scientific Name: Indopacetus pacificus

Longman's beaked whale is considered one of the rarest and least known cetacean species. Until recently, it was known only from two skulls found in Australia and Somalia. Sightings are rare due to their deep-ocean distribution, elusive behavior and possible low numbers.

They have been seen at sea in tight groups of 5 - 20 animals and sometimes up to 100 individuals. They are sometimes seen with short-finned pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins.

They probably feed on deep-sea fish, squid, and possibly crustaceans and echinoderms found on the sea floor. Because they lack functional teeth, they presumably capture most of their prey by suction.

Honolulu Weekly May 2010 "Beak Show"

Hawaii News Sept. 2010 Beaked whales not rare but are seldom seen in isles -

Our wildlife tours focus on education and conservation so that an interactive relationship can be maintained in the best interest of both humans and dolphins. We strive to foster admiration and deep respect for these wonder-ful marine mammals.

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