Northern bottlenose whale

Hyperoodon ampullatus


Size: 7 – 9m

Key feature: Large bulbous melon head

The northern bottlenose whale is the largest beaked whale in the European Atlantic. It has a very distinctive “bulbous melon” head and small stubby beak. It is grey/brown in colour with a lighter belly. It has a small fin two thirds of the way along its back.


The northern bottlenose whale travels singularly or in groups of up to 10 individuals. They breach only occasionally, but when they do they lift their whole body out of the water, often several times. They have a low bushy blow and when they dive they do not raise their tail flukes, remaining under water for 14 - 70 minutes.


The northern bottlenose whale is distributed throughout the North Atlantic, in deep offshore areas. They have been seen on numerous occasions in the Bay of Biscay, particularly around the deep-sea canyons in the south of the bay, as well as off the east coast of Iceland.


They were commercially hunted in the Atlantic until 1977. Their behaviour of approaching stationary boats and staying with wounded animals made them an easy target for whalers.

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