Gervai's Beaked Whale

Gervai's Beaked Whale

Antillean beaked whale, Gulf Stream beaked whale, European Beaked whale

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Infraorder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Mesoplodon europaeus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
27-48 yrs
WEIGHT
1,200 kg
LENGTH
4.5-5.2 m

Gervais' beaked whales are also known as the "Antillean" or "Gulf Stream beaked whales". Because of a low profile at the surface as well as small, hardly observed blow, this species is insufficiently explored and difficult to spot at sea. Males are slightly smaller than females. Adult males are identified by a pair of visible teeth, appearing from the front of their lower jaw, whereas teeth of adult females and juveniles are not visible, hidden under the gum tissue of their mouth. Gervais' beaked whales are dark gray or bluish to black. The ventral side is paler than the rest of the body. The skin of these whales usually darkens as they age. Mature males occasionally exhibit scars, running across their bodies as a result of fights to defend their mating rights.

Distibution

These animals inhabit waters of the central and northern Atlantic Ocean and are primarily found north of the equator. Gervais' beaked whales favor deep tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate waters, though can also live in colder, temperate waters.

Gervai's Beaked Whale  habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

There is very scarce information about this species, since the Gervais' beaked whales are rarely seen at sea. A handful of observations indicate that the animals breach the water and remain submerged for long periods of time after brief surfacings. Gervais' beaked whales are likely to be social animals, living in couples or forming small groups. Occasional strandings have shown a huge number of scars on the bodies of male specimen, suggesting that males of this species engage in fights. Gervais' beaked whales exhibit the same tooth marks as the cookie-cutter sharks and the orca. They are likely to be deep-divers. A great number of strandings are females with their newborn offspring, assuming that these animals come closer to the seashore mainly to give birth.

Lifestyle

Diet and Nutrition

The Gervais' beaked whales are carnivores (piscivores and molluscivores). The diet of these whales primarily consists of deep sea shrimp, mesopelagic viper fish and cephalopods such as squid.

Mating Habits

BABY CARRYING
1 calf
FEMALE NAME
cow
MALE NAME
bull
BABY NAME
calf

Almost nothing is known about the reproductive habits of this species. Females probably yield a single baby at a time, which is likely to be precocial and measure approximately 6.8 feet (2.1 meters) in length. Females of Gervais’ beaked whales are thought to reach sexual maturity at 15 feet (4.5 m) long.

Population

Population threats

Currently, Gervais’ beaked whales are accidentally entangled in gillnets throughout their range. The animals may also suffer from acoustic trauma as a result of military noise pollution underwater.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of the Gervais’ beaked whales is unknown for today, but there is an estimate of 106 whales, found in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Currently, this species is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The species is named after Paul Gervais, a French scientist. In 1855, he was the first to identify this whale.
  • They take very long dives, remaining submerged for up to an hour before coming to the surface to breathe.
  • Gervais’ beaked whales are able to navigate the ocean, forage and find prey in waters with low visibility due to using echolocation.
  • In order to reduce drag when moving forward, these animals are known to fit their flippers into depression pockets while swimming.
  • Since whales cannot breathe underwater, they have to regularly come to the water's surface to take air.
  • They breathe through the special blowhole, found on the top of their heads. In order to breathe, these animals come to the surface, taking air in through this hole.
  • Moby Dick is the most famous novel about whales, written in 1851 by an American writer Herman Melville.

References

1. Gervai's Beaked Whale Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gervais%27_beaked_whale
2. Gervai's Beaked Whale on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/13245/0

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About