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Cuvier's Beaked Whale
Size comparison against an average human
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
Suborder: Odontoceti
Family: Ziphidae
Genus: Ziphius
Species: Z. cavirostris
Binomial name
Ziphius cavirostris
G. Cuvier, 1823
Cuvier's Beaked Whale range

Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)[1] is the most widely distributed of all the beaked whales. It is the only member of the genus Ziphius. Another common name for the species is Goose-beaked Whale on account of the fact that its head is said to be shaped like the beak of a goose. During the Middle Ages, this animal was thought to be a monster with a fish's body and an owl's head.[citation needed] Georges Cuvier first described it in 1823 from part of a skull found in France in 1804.


Physical description

Cuvier's Beaked Whale has a short beak in comparison with other species in its family, with a slightly bulbous melon. The melon is white or creamy in color and a white strip runs back to the dorsal fin about two-thirds of the way along the back. The rest of the body color varies by individual: some are dark grey; others a reddish-brown. Individuals commonly have white scars and patches caused by cookiecutter sharks. The dorsal fin varies in shape from triangular to highly falcate. The fluke of the whale is about one-quarter the body length. The whale grows up to about 7 meters (23 ft) in length and weighs 2–3 tonnes (2.0–3.0 LT; 2.2–3.3 ST). They live for forty years.

The Cuvier's Beaked Whale is difficult to distinguish from many of the mesoplodont whales at sea.

Range and habitat

Their range is known mainly from strandings. It is widespread across the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Individuals have been found as far north as the Shetland Islands and as far south as Tierra del Fuego. Deep waters are preferred in anything from cool to tropical habitats.

Because of identification difficulties, the global population is unknown.


Japanese whalers in the past opportunistically killed Cuvier's. As with many other cetacean species many individuals are believed to be killed each year by gillnets.

Beaked Whales may also be sensitive to noise. A higher incidence of strandings has been recorded in noisy seas such as the Mediterranean. Multiple mass strandings (beachings) have occurred following operations by the Spanish Navy.[2]


  • Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L. (2008). Ziphius cavirostris. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 26 February 2009. Database entry includes justification for why this species is listed as least concern.
  1. Cuvier's Beaked Whale in the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals Thomas A. Jefferson, 1998. ISBN 0-12-551340-2
  2. National Audubon Society Guide to Marine Mammals of the World Reeves et al., 2002. ISBN 0-375-41141-0.
  3. Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises Carwardine, 1995. ISBN 0-7513-2781-6

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