Northern Bottlenose Whale

Northern Bottlenose Whale

North Atlantic bottlenose whale, Bottlehead

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Infraorder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Hyperoodon ampullatus
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
40 yrs
WEIGHT
5800-7500 kg
LENGTH
6-10 m

The Northern bottlenose whale belongs to the family Ziphiidae or beaked whale. The beak of this whale is very similar to that of a dolphin. The animal has the distinctive melon, which is typically white in males, and grey and more bulbous in females. Young whales are identified by a dark dorsum and light belly. Their coloration gradually becomes paler as they grow up. Male individuals exhibit a whitish marking on their forehead, which is larger in older males. Females of this species lack teeth, while males have two teeth at the front of their lower jaw, which are slightly slanted forward.

Distibution

The north Atlantic is the only area, where these animals can be found. Small populations of this species can be found in the UK waters, usually around the Northern and Western Isles of Scotland, the northern North Sea as well as along the continental shelf break to the west of Ireland. Northern bottlenose whales also occur off western Norway and in the Barents Sea. The preferred habitat of this whale is deep (deeper than 1,000 meters), cold-temperate to sub-arctic waters.

Northern Bottlenose Whale habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

These social animals gather in groups, typically consisting of 4 - 10 individuals, though groups of up to 25 animals have been recorded. Observations of whalers have shown that adult males of this species may occasionally travel separately from females and young males, particularly before and during their annual migration. Northern bottlenose whales are normally migratory. During spring and early summer, the animals live in northern parts of their range, travelling south by the winter. These animals make low-intensity sounds, which can be heard by humans. They also give out ultrasonic clicks, which are amplified in their melon and help them in echolocation of prey in deep or murky waters with low lighting. Surface behavior of these whales may vary amongst individuals. However, they often approach to sluggish ships, swimming around them for more than an hour.

Diet and Nutrition

Northern bottlenose whales are carnivores (molluscivores). The diet of this whale usually consists of sea cucumbers, herring, cuttlefish, sea stars and squid.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
spring-early summer
PREGNANCY DURATION
12 months
BABY CARRYING
1 calf
INDEPENDENT AGE
12 months
FEMALE NAME
cow
MALE NAME
bull
BABY NAME
calf

Northern bottlenose whales are polygynous animals, meaning that each male of this species mates with multiple females. They usually mate in spring and early summer. Females give birth in every 2 - 3 years. After a gestation period of a year, a single calf is born, typically in April - June. The baby is nursed for a year, after which it is able to hunt and survive independently. Males of this species reach sexual maturity at a length of 7.3-7.6m, which matches the age of 7 - 9 years. Females are mature at 6.7-7m or at 8 - 14 years.

Population

Population threats

One of the primary threats to this animal is human disturbance in a form of acoustic disturbance. As deep-diving animals, these whales are exposed to mid-frequency active sonar, which used by the military in order to detect submarines. The animal is also threatened by sound disturbance from oil and gas exploration. In addition, the Northern bottlenose whale is currently the most commonly hunted species of beaked whale. Other notable concerns include chemical pollution as well as decline in numbers of prey populations.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the global population size of the Northern bottlenose whale is unknown for today. However, specific populations have been estimated in following areas: in the eastern North Atlantic - 40, 000 whales; in the Icelandic and Faroese waters - 3,142 and 287 whales; in the Gully (Scotian Shelf) - 163 whales. Currently, the Northern bottlenose whales are classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • A part of the scientific name of this animal, 'ampullatus', means 'flask', indicating the head shape of this whale, which resembles a bottle.
  • Like dolphins, these whales are known to breach, spy-hop as well as slap the water with their tails.
  • Young whales typically forage closer to the surface, whereas adult individuals of this species can dive to a depth of up to 5,000 feet when hunting.
  • This animal is capable of holding its breath from 10 minutes up to an hour when diving to prey.
  • There's an opinion, that whales are capable of feeling emotions.
  • The tongue of this animal may weigh as an elephant, while its heart is as heavy as a car.
  • Cetaceans - whales and dolphins - are most closely related to hippos.
  • Like humans, whales are not able to breathe underwater. For this reason, they come to the surface, breathing through the blowhole in the top of their heads. They also release air through this blowhole.
  • Unlike humans, these animals sleep only half brain in order to take air when necessary and not to drown.

References

1. Northern Bottlenose Whale Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_bottlenose_whale
2. Northern Bottlenose Whale on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/10707/0

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