Southern Bottlenose Whale

Southern Bottlenose Whale

Antarctic bottlenose whale, Flatheaded bottlenose whale, Southern bottle-nosed whale

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Order
Infraorder
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Hyperoodon planifrons
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
37-50 yrs
WEIGHT
6-8 t
LENGTH
6-7.5 m

The Southern bottlenose whale has a sturdy built and a rather unusual appearance. The species is so called due to its short, tube-like beak and a large, bulb-like forehead. These animals exhibit a head crest, which has a rounded shape in females and juveniles. Head crest of males usually becomes larger and heavier as they age, changing the shape of their forehead. Older males display a flat and squared-off head crest. There's no information on purpose of the enlargement of their forehead, although adult males are likely to use it in their fights, head-butting their opponents. The lower jaw of males holds 2 front teeth. The color of their skin ranges from chocolate-brown to yellow. Meanwhile, the flanks and under parts of these whales have lighter coloration, because of photosynthetic algae, which lives on their skin. Females of this species live more than 37 years, whereas lifespan of males is more than 50 years.

Distibution

The Southern bottlenose whales are distributed throughout circumpolar area of the southern Ocean. They are likely to be migratory, travelling from the Antarctic northwards to temperate waters at the end of summer, reaching as far as South Africa, Brazil and Western Australia. The Southern bottlenose whales inhabit deep oceanic waters of more than 1,000 meters, and don't tend to occur in waters shallower than 200 meters. In summer, they can be seen within 100 km of the edge of the Antarctic ice.

Southern Bottlenose Whale habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Southern bottlenose whales are sociable animals, forming small groups called herd, consisting of 2 - 12 individuals. Members of a group travel and dive together. They typically dive under ice and then surface, sticking their beaks out of the water before sounding. These whales socialize only with conspecifics and do not tend to communicate with other species. When coming up to breathe, they remain at the surface for up to 10 minutes before taking a long dive. These whales release air from their blowhole very often, approximately every 30 seconds. When threatened, they can swim very fast, raising their heads completely out of the water as they surface. Breaching and porpoising are common behaviors in this species, though they do it away from boats and generally avoid any vessels.

Diet and Nutrition

The Southern bottlenose whales are carnivores (molluscivores). The diet of these whales mainly consists of squid, complemented with various species of fish.

Mating Habits

REPRODUCTION SEASON
during summer months
BABY CARRYING
1 calf
FEMALE NAME
cow
MALE NAME
bull
BABY NAME
calf

Little is known about the reproductive behavior and habits of this species. Southern bottlenose whales probably mate during summer months, while births occur during the following spring - early summer. As beaked whales, these animals may breed once every few years, yielding a single baby, which is sexually mature at 11 years old.

Population

Population threats

Along with other beaked whales, these animals suffer from loud human-made sounds, produced by naval sonar and seismic exploration: these sounds are extremely dangerous for whales and can subsequently lead to gas bubble disease. On the other hand, they may be threatened by climate change, causing increase in sea level and surface temperature. However, there is no information on how exactly these changes can affect the local population of Southern bottlenose whales. Other notable concerns include pollution, due to which toxic substances accumulate in body tissues of whales. Southern bottlenose whales are often incidentally caught in driftnet fisheries and discarded. In addition, they compete for food with squid fisheries at lower latitudes of their oceanic range.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Southern bottlenose whale is abundant and the most common species throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • In 1882, William Flower described this whale based on a beach-worn skull, which was found on Lewis Isle in the Dampier Archipelago (north-western Australia).
  • Whales cannot breathe underwater, and they have to regularly surface in order to survive. Hence, when resting, whales sleep with a half-brain: while one half of their brain sleeps, the other half stays awake, so that the animal can come up to the surface for air when necessary.
  • When swimming, cetaceans move their tails up and down with a vertical movement, unlike fish, which move their tails from side to side.
  • Before taking a deep dive, whales usually "fluke" or raise their tails out of the water. Meanwhile, each species of whale has its own distinctive tail features, helping identify species during "fluking".
  • Since whales don't drink salty ocean water, they get all required moisture from their food by metabolizing the fat.
  • The purpose of so-called 'breaching' behavior (this is when a whale jumps out of the water) remains unknown. In the past, whalers believed this escapade was intended to taunt the fishermen. Nowadays, biologists consider breaching to be a sort of display of stamina and strength to prospective mates, who can determine the energy of a breach based on the sound and frequency of produced splashes.

References

1. Southern Bottlenose Whale Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_bottlenose_whale
2. Southern Bottlenose Whale on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/10708/0

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