Sowerby’s beaked whale

Mesoplodon bidens
Sowerby's beaked whale
Sowerby's beaked whale - Pearl II, Bay of Biscay 2016
Sowerby's beaked whale - A very distant breaching
Sowerby's beaked whale -  Calf - Photo: Stephen Marsh

Appearance

Size: max 4-5.5m

Key features:
- Long beak, that protrudes out the water at a steep angle when surfacing
- Rounded, short forehead
- Teeth visible on males half way down its beak on the lower jaw

It has a small head with a prominent forehead and long beak; there is an indent before the blow hole. The adult male has a pair of triangular teeth midway down its beak on the lower jaw. It has a curved dorsal fin set well back on its body. They often have pale oval scarring which is a result of parasites. This whale is a lot more slender than the Cuvier’s beaked whale and northern bottlenose whale, and is more like an elongated dolphin in shape.


Behaviour

Generally very shy animals so little is known about their behaviours. When seen, they are in groups of 2-8 individuals. Most of the information we have about Sowerby’s beaked whales is taken from strandings, very few have ever been seen at sea.

Distribution

Most records of sightings have come from strandings around eastern North Atlantic. Most European sightings have occurred between the Canaries the Arctic Circle with the deep waters to the west of the UK and Ireland to be the centre of this species range. The few records we have suggest that it is the most frequently occurring Mesoplodon beaked whale in the North-west Atlantic.

Threats

Threats include: marine pollutants (particularly plastic), entanglement in fishing gear, collision with ships, overfishing of prey species and climate change, as this can alter their habitat and the location of food.

Sightings Map

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