Beaked whales belong to the family Ziphiidae, which consists of toothed whales. A distinguishing feature of these whales is that they have “beaks” that resemble that of the dolphins. Beaked whales are among the least known mammals due to their strange habits and deep-sea habitat. Beaked whales seldom thrive in captivity. Most of them cannot survive for a single day if taken out of the ocean. Hence, beaked whales are indeed unique species.
Species of Beaked Whales
There are 22 species of beaked whales in the world including the Northern bottlenose whale, Gray’s beaked whale, Spade-toothed whale, and Cuvier’s beaked whale.
Cuvier’s Beaked Whale
The Cuvier’s beaked whale, also known as the goose-beaked whale, is one of the most common whales in the world. They are frequently seen and famous for being among the best divers in the world. Cuvier’s beaked whales can dive for one hour at an approximate depth of 1,000 meters. In fact, the whales have set a record for the greatest dive-depth ever for mammals which is 137.5 minutes at 2,992 meters deep. The Cuvier’s beaked whales’ beak is shorter than that of the other whales in the family Ziphiidae.
Northern Bottlenose Whale
The Northern bottlenose whale can either be grey or brown. It has a prominent beak coupled with a large bulbous forehead. This whale is a deep diver that reaches depths of 1,473 meters. The Northern bottlenose whales are known for their curiosity about vessels. As such, it is common to see the whales approaching ships. Consequently, they were easy prey for the heavy hunting of whales by Britain and Norway that went on between the 19th and 20th centuries.
The spade-toothed whale is a mysterious whale because very little is known about it. It is the rarest beaked whale although it is believed that it is larger than the ginkgo-toothed beaked whale in size. Its name is derived from the fact that its protruding teeth resemble the shape of a flensing spade. There are many unknown facts about the spade-toothed whale. For example, its population status is unknown, its behavior is strange, and it has never been seen alive.
Gray’s Beaked Whale
Gray’s beaked whale is also known as the southern beaked whale, Haast’s beaked whale, or the Scamperdown whale. It is commonly found in New Zealand where it often exists in groups. However, the whale can also be found in South America, Australia, Falkland Island, and South Africa. It lives at depths of about 2,000 meters. The Gray’s beaked whale is famous for its very long beak. It is also more frequently seen than other species of beaked whales.
Challenges Faced by Beaked Whales
One of the challenges faced by the whales was the heavy hunting pressures in the 19 to 20th centuries. The other problem is that not much is known about these whales. Most of them live deep in the ocean and are very elusive mammals. Consequently, little is known about their behavior, their population status, and features. However, with time, some of the rare species like the True’s beaked whale are being captured on video.