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Bottlenose whale

Bottlenose whales
Scientific Classification
Binomial names
Hyperoodon planifrons
Hyperoodon ampullatus

A bottlenose whale is one of two species of whale in the Ziphid family. The two species - the Northern Bottlenose Whale Hyperoodon ampullatus and the Southern Bottlenose Whale Hyperoodon planifrons are the sole members of the Hyperoodon genus. Whilst the two species are physically similar their stories over the past two hundred years are rather different. The Southern Bottlenose has been rarely observed, never hunted and probably the most abudant whale in Antarctic waters. The Northern species on the other hand was hunted heavily by Norway and Britain in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Norway finally stopped killing the whale in 1973.

Physical description

The two species are long (8-10m in length when adult) and fairly rotund. The melon is extremely bluff - the shape is similar to that of a caricatured 'egg-head' professor. The beak is long and is coloured white in males and grey in females. The dorsal fin is relatively small - about 12in - set behind the middle of the back, is falcate and usually tipped. The back is coloured mid-dark grey in the Northern species and light-to-mid grey in the Southern. Both species have a lighter underside.

Population and distribution

The Northern Bottlenose Whale is endemic to the North Atlantic Ocean and occurs in cool and subarctic waters. It is found in the Davis Strait, the Labrador Sea, the Greenland Sea and the Barent's Sea. They prefer deep water. Total population is unknown but likely to be of the order of 10,000. The "Gully", a huge submarine canyon north of Nova Scotia has a year-round population of around 130.

The Southern Bottlenose Whale has a circumpolar distribution in the Southern Ocean. It is found as far south as the Antarctic coast and as north as the tip of South Africa, New Zealand's North Island and the southern parts of Brazil. There is thought to be a global population in excess of 500,000.


The Southern Bottlenose Whale is not believed to be threatened by human actions.

Prior to the beginning of whaling of Northern Bottlenoses it is estimated that there were 40,000-50,000 individuals in the Atlantic. Between 1850 and 1973 88,000 individuals were killed, primarily by Norwegian and British whalers. The population is very likely to be much reduced on pre-whaling figures. Since whaling ended the primary concern to conservationists is the number of oil and gas developments around the Gully.


  1. Bottlenose Whales in the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals Shannon Gowans, 1998. ISBN 0125513402
  2. National Audubon Society Guide to Marine Mammals of the World Reeves et al, 2002. ISBN 0375411410.
  3. Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises Carwardine, 1995. ISBN 0751327816