July 3, 2004
In addition to several humpback sightings, today we saw our first example of a beaked whale, Cuvier's beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris. Unfortunately, my first sighting of a Cuvier's beaked whale was that of a decaying carcass, rather than a living specimen. The pink flesh was exposed but the teeth and characteristic beak were largely intact, allowing the small boat team to positively ID the specimen and take a biopsy.
Ziphius is one of the most widespread beaked whales, occurring in all regions expect for the polar zone. Beaked whales in general have been a subject of mention in the news lately as it is hypothesized that recent mass strandings of these whales in various locations may be linked to use of naval sonar. Though a link has not been firmly established, the whales' echolocation seems to make them particularly sensitive to such "noise." The beaked whales are particularly difficult to study as they spend relatively less time at the surface compared to other cetaceans (due to an extended dive cycle) and while at the surface, they can be difficult to see in all but the calmest conditions. Hopefully, our next beaked whale sighting will be of a living specimen.
Return to Journals Index