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Gray'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: Mesoplodon
Species: M. grayi
Binomial name
Mesoplodon grayi
von Haast, 1876
Gray's Beaked Whale range

Gray's Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon grayi), sometimes known as Haast's Beaked Whale, the Scamperdown Whale, or the Southern beaked whale, is one of the better-known members of the genus Mesoplodon. The scientific name refers to John Edward Gray, a zoologist at the British Museum. This species is fairly gregarious and strands relatively frequently for a beaked whale. It is notable for being the only beaked whale, other than Shepherd's Beaked Whale (not a Mesoplodon), that has numerous teeth.

Contents

Description

Gray's Beaked Whale is a fairly slender member of the genus. The melon on the whale bulges towards the blowhole and slopes down towards the beak. The beak itself is very long and pointed for a beaked whale, and has a relatively straight mouth line. In both sexes there are 17–22 rows of small teeth located towards the back of the mouth which barely protrude past the gum. In males, there are two small, triangular teeth present halfway down the mouth. The overall coloration is dark on top and light below, and both sexes have a white beak. Females are lighter on top and have additional white marking near the genitals. Adult males have typical scars from fighting and cookiecutter sharks normally present in the genus. Females reach at least 5.3 meters (17 feet 6 inches) whereas males reach 5.7 meters (19 feet) and weigh around 1100 kilograms (2400 pounds). They are believed to be around 2.4 meters (7 feet 10 inches) long when born.

Behavior

This species has a tendency to strand in large groups, once involving 20 individuals. Other strandings involved five to eight animals. The upper teeth may be used in holding prey, but it not clear why only this species has them.

Population and distribution

This species typically lives in the Southern Hemisphere between 30 and 45 degrees. Many strandings have occurred off New Zealand, but others have happened off Australia, South Africa, South America, and the Falkland Islands. This species has been sighted in groups off the coast of Madagascar and in the Antarctic area. Oddly, one specimen stranded off the Netherlands, on a different Hemisphere and several thousand miles away from all other strandings. No population estimates exist, but they are believed to be rather common.

Conservation

These whales have not been hunted deliberately and they have not been entangled in fishing gear.

References

  1. ^ 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). Mesoplodon grayi. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 24 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of data deficient.

Bibliography

  • Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Edited by William F. Perrin, Bernd Wursig, and J.G.M Thewissen. Academic Press, 2002. ISBN 0-12-551340-2
  • Sea Mammals of the World. Written by Randall R. Reeves, Brent S. Steward, Phillip J. Clapham, and James A. Owell. A & C Black, London, 2002. ISBN 0-7136-6334-0

External links

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