Sowerby’s beaked whale

Mesoplodon bidens

Appearance

Size: 4-5.5m

Key feature: Long narrow beak

The Sowerby’s beaked whale is medium sized with a grey coloured back and paler belly. It has a small head with a forehead bulge and a long prominent 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 scaring which is a result of parasites, and adult males often show scarring from teeth marks.

Behaviour

Little is known about Sowerby’s beaked whale and they are rarely seen. They tend not to approach boats and have a weak blow. When seen, they appear to surface beak first, at a steep angle. They have been seen in groups up to 10 animals.

Distribution

Alike to the Cuvier’s beaked whale, what is known about Sowerby’s beaked whale is mainly from strandings. They are distributed through the North Atlantic from cool to warm temperate waters, they are found both on the continental shelf and offshore. These have been sighted from ORCA survey trips through the Bay of Biscay.

Threats

Little is known of the population of Sowerby’s beaked whale, therefore it is not possible to tell if any major conservation issues are present. The main threats include those felt by other cetaceans; pollution, marine litter, by-catch, habitat destruction. The have often been found stranded, and as with Cuvier’s beaked whale this could be linked to the effects of sonar and underwater noise.

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