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Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Cuvier's Beaked Whale'
Scientific Classification
Binomial name
Ziphius caviorstris

Cuvier's Beaked Whale 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. This marine mammal was first described by G. Cuvier in 1823 from part of a skull found in France in 1804.

Physical description

Cuvier's Beaked Whale has a short beak in comparison with other species in the family, making for a slightly bulbous-shaped melon. The melon is white or creamy in colour and the white strip continues back to the dorsal fin about two-thirds of the way along the back. The rest of the body varies from individual to individual in colour, some are dark grey, others a reddish-brown. Individuals commonly have white scars and patches caused by cookie-cutter sharks. The dorsal fin varies in shape from triangular to highly falcate. The fluke of the whale is about one-quarter the length body. The whale grows up to about seven metres in length and weighs 2-3 metric tonnes. They live for forty years.

The Cuvier's Beaked Whale is difficult to distinguish from many of the Mesoplodont Whales at sea.

Population and distribution

The distribution of Cuvier's Beaked Whale is known mainly from strandings. It has a widespread distribution across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Individuals have been found as far north as the Shetland Islands and as south as Tierra del Fuego. Deep offshore waters are preferred in anything from cool to tropical waters. Studies have been carried out in the Bay of Biscay though sightings are infrequent there. Because of the difficulty of identifying the species the total global population is unknown.


Japanese fisheries have in the past killed Cuvier's opportunistically. As with many other cetacean species many individuals are believed to be killed each year by gillnets. Beaked Whales may also be sensitive to noise. A higher incidence of strandings has been recorded in noisy seas such as the Mediterranean.


  1. Cuvier's Beaked Whale in the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals Thomas A. Jefferson, 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