Description & Behavior

Hector’s beaked whales, Mesoplodon hectori (Gray, 1871), aka New Zealand beaked whales and skew-beaked whales, are rare deep-water whales colored dark gray to brown on their dorsal (upper) sides and pale gray on their ventral (under) sides. Data on the size of this species has been collected primarily from strandings. The largest stranded male measured 4.3 m in length, and the largest female measured 4.43 m. A small triangular tooth protrudes from either side of their lower jaws in males similar to that of True’s beaked whales. Females also have these teeth, but they remain hidden. The presence of these teeth in males are probably responsible for the scratches and scars commonly seen on the flanks of these animals. They have small, rounded dorsal fins, the front of which angles sharply toward their body.

Beaked Whales (Family Hyperoodontidae)
These medium-sized to moderately large whales have a single pair of grooves on their throats. They have distinct snouts, 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 lack 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


Hector’s beaked whales, Mesoplodon hectori, are found in the Southern Hemisphere around: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the Falkland Islands, and South America. It was thought that the range was extending into the Northern Hemisphere as several beaked whales were found stranded in Southern California, however, recent DNA analysis showed that those stranded animals represented a new species now known as Perrin’s beaked whales, Mesoplodon perrini, after the famous American cetologist Dr. W. F. Perrin.

Feeding Behavior (Ecology)

Stomach analysis of an adult Hector’s beaked whale showed squid as the primary diet of these whales.

Life History

No data. Almost nothing is known of the biology of Hector’s beaked whales.

Conservation Status & Comments

No data. As above.

References & Further Research

Factsheets – Hector’s Beaked Whale – Australian Museum
Society for Marine Mammalogy: Mesoplodon hectori, Hector’s beaked whale
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 Mesoplodon hectori @
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