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Cuvier's Beaked Whales, Ziphius cavirostris

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Description & Behavior

Cuvier's beaked whales, Ziphius cavirostris (G. Cuvier, 1823), aka goose-beaked whales, get their genus name from the Greek word xiphos, which means "sword;" the species name comes from the Latin words cavus and rostrum which mean "hollow" and "beak" respectively. Their name refers to the indentation found on their head just in front of their blowhole. These whales measure 5-7 m in length and weigh 2,500 kg.

Cuvier's beaked whales have a stout body and small head for their size that slopes down to a short beak and curved mouth, giving Cuvier's beaked whales their characteristic "grin." They have small flippers and a curved dorsal fin that measures up to 38 cm high. Their flippers, like other beaked whales, fold into a slight depression on the lower side of their body, streamlining them for faster swimming. The color of these whales varies, but generally tends to be light to dark brown or gray as adults. Older males tend to have a white head. Their ventral (under) side is usually dark brown or dark gray. Patterns of lighter colored patches are also present on the bodies of adults. Adult males also have 2 large teeth which are about 5 cm long that protrude from their lower jaw that are thought to be used during competition for females. Female teeth do not protrude and are smaller and more pointed. The lower jaw of Cuvier's beaked whales extends beyond their upper jaw, and similar to other beaked whales, they have 2 v-shaped throat grooves.

Beaked Whales (Family Hyperoodontidae)
These medium-sized to moderately large whales have a single pair of grooves on their throats. They have 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 small dorsal fins toward the rear on their backs. The rear edge of their flukes (tails) 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

Cuvier's beaked whales, Ziphius cavirostris, are one of the most "common" whales in its family and are found in all temperate and tropical seas, commonly in deep water of the coasts of Japan, Hawaii, and New Zealand. No migration patterns are yet known.

Feeding Behavior (Ecology)

Examinations of the stomach contents of Cuvier's beaked whales have shown that these whales feed on squid and deep sea fishes.

Life History

Cuvier's beaked whale females reach sexual maturity at 5.8 m in length, males at 5.5 m. Newborn calves measure 2-3 m at birth and weigh about 270 kg. They live up to at least 60 years.

Conservation Status & Comments

Very little data is available about Cuvier's beaked whales. They are found stranded more often than any other species of beaked whales, and 2 mass strandings have been reported, one in the Galápagos and the other in Puerto Rico. In other regions, Cuvier's beaked whales have been found stranded individually. Although these whales have been hunted in the past, so few were caught that their population numbers were likely not significantly effected. The greatest threat to Cuvier's beaked whales is thought to be acoustic trauma related to human-activated sonar in the Caribbean, Azores Islands, and in the Gulf of California.

References & Further Research

ACS Cuvier's beaked whale Cetacean Fact Sheet - American Cetacean Society
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.

Research Ziphius cavirostris » Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library [audio / video] ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ 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

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