Beaked whales

Beaked whales – Mesoplodon sp. – Μεσοπλόδοντας

Other common names:
FR – mésoplodon
ES – mesoplodon
IT – mesoplodonte
DE – Zweizahnwal

The beaked whales of the genus Mesoplodon are among the least known mammals on Earth. They are elusive animals, difficult to study and to identify at the species level when encountered at sea. They are all smaller than the most common ziphiid, the Cuvier’s beaked whale. The maximum lengths of 13 species range between 4.43 m and 5.64 m and the larger 14th species reaches 6.15 m.

Their body is spindle-shaped, with a small, triangular dorsal fin located about two thirds between the beak and the tail. The pectoral (side) fins are small and narrow and fit into pigmented depressions in the body. The unnotched flukes are usually straight across the trailing edge or even slightly convex. A single pair of external throat groves may aid in suction feeding. The head is small and tapered and the melon (forehead) is also small, blending into the beak without a crease. The blowhole is semicircular with the ends pointed forward. Most species show sexual dimorphism, as only adult males have functional teeth (tusks) and show excessive and conspicuous body scarring resulting from the usage of these teeth by other males in intraspecific fights.

IUCN Red List classification: All species of Mesoplodon are listed as Data Deficient globally (IUCN 2008).