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Baird's Beaked Whales, Berardius bairdii

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Description & Behavior

Baird's beaked whales, Berardius bairdii (Stejneger, 1883), aka north Pacific bottle-nosed whales, are the largest of the beaked whales reaching up to 12.8 m in length. The species was named for Spencer F. Baird of the Smithsonian Institution, a well-known naturalist in the late 1800s.

This whale species has a small head, which equals about 1/8 of the total body length. The Baird's beaked whale has a distinctive bulbous forehead that slopes steeply to a long, thin beak similar to a dolphin's beak. When it surfaces to breathe, its head exits the water at a steep angle allowing the bulging forehead, beak, and teeth to be seen clearly. The lower jaw extends 10 cm beyond the upper jaw exposing two sets of teeth near the tip of the snout. Like many other whales, there are no teeth in the upper jaw, and like many beaked whales there are 2 v-shaped throat grooves. The front pair of teeth in the lower jaw is about 9 cm long. A second pair of teeth is found 20 cm behind the front set which is about 5 cm.

The large, round body of Baird's beaked whale tapers toward both the head and tail. They are blue-gray to brown to black in color on the dorsal side and light gray on the ventral side. A small, triangular fin is located toward the posterior end of the body. The flukes equal about 1/4 the body length and are slightly rounded at the tips with no notch in the center. The small flippers on the anterior end of the body are rounded at the tips.

The blow of the Baird's beaked whale is low and indistinct making them difficult to detect at sea.

Beaked Whales (Family Hyperoodontidae)
These medium-sized to moderately large whales have a single pair of grooves on the throat. There is a distinct snout, and often the few teeth present are visible only in adult males. They have a single nostril or blowhole. Beaked whales are generally slender with a small dorsal fin placed towards the rear on the back. The rear edge of the flukes usually lacks a well-defined notch. These whales are deep divers and are rarely seen. Many species are known only from a few specimens, and little is known about the life history and biology of the group. All members of this family, except Blainville's beaked whales, are difficult to distinguish from each other, and study by museum experts is usually necessary for identification.

World Range & Habitat

This species may be the only large beaked whale found in the North Pacific ranging from Japan to southern California/Baja and north toward the Bering Sea. These whales are a deep water species found mostly at depths greater than 1,000 m. Sightings are infrequent as they rarely enter shallow waters. Sometimes seen in pairs, they usually travel in larger social groups of 6-30 animals. Their lifespan may be up to 70 years.

Feeding Behavior (Ecology)

Baird's beaked whales prey on squid, octopus, mackerel, sardines, and deep sea fishes.

Life History

Males may reach sexual maturity at 10-11 m in body length, females at 10-10.3 m. Calves measure 4.5 m at birth. The gestation period is estimated to be from 12-17 months. It is thought that females have calves every 3 years.

Conservation Status & Comments

There are no known estimates of population past or present. Japan hunted these whales commercially in the 1950s; 322 were harvested by Japanese coastal whaling operations in 1952. Russia also hunted them in the past, but discontinued because of their scarcity.

References & Further Research

BAIRD'S BEAKED WHALE, Berardius bairdii - American Cetacean Society Fact Sheet
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)
Center for Cetacean Research and Conservation (CCRC) - Beaked whales (+ videos)
Jefferson, T.A., S. Leatherwood, and M.A. Webber, FAO species identification guide, Marine mammals of the world, Rome, FAO. 1993. 320 p. 587 figs.
Balcomb, Kenneth; Minasian, Stanley, The World's Whales. Illustrated by Larry Foster. A Complete Illustrated Guide. Smithsonian Books, New York; W. W. Norton, 1983
Ellis, Richard, The Book of Whales. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1984.

Research Berardius bairdii » Barcode of Life ~ Taxonomy ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species + Database ~ WoRMS

Search for Baird's Beaked Whales » ARKive ~ Flickr ~ Google ~ Creative Commons search ~ Wikipedia ~ YouTube

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