Adult Male © Phil Coles

Quick Facts
Length Around 7m Distribution
Throughout temperate seas from Shetland and the Aleutians in the north to southern Africa, Australia and the Chatham islands, usually in water 1,500 – 3,500m deep.
Weight 2,500 – 3,000 kg Identification
Distinctive, but highly variable colouring – often with orange-brown hue, often white head and pale back and heavy scaring especially in mature males.
Short beak. Large heavy body with small dorsal fin appearing further back on the body.
Diet Deep sea fish and squid Threats
Occasional whaling, ingestion of rubbish, low frequency, high intensity sonar, by-catch.
Group size 1-25  

One of most frequently sighted and probably most abundant beaked whales. A regular presence in European waters and throughout the temperate oceans of the world. Locally abundant in water more than 1,000m deep and especially in areas with depth variation like underwater escarpments and the continental shelf.

It is one of the most striking members of the family with bold markings ranging from a yellowish- grey to brick red. Most of the body is typically a warm orangey-brown with a paler head. There is usually a darker patch around the eye. As the animals mature the extent of this pale pigmentation increases, gradually forming a cape that stretches back to the dorsal fin.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale Head Profile
Adult © Phil Coles
Adult males have a pair of teeth that protrude from the tip of the lower jaw and are usually covered in scars from the teeth of other males. In addition to this scratching the species also some times has white oval scars attributed to a deep sea fish known as the cookie cutter shark. Both male and female whales can be identified by their short beaks and large rotund bodies. When the animals surface the back appears longer, with the dorsal fin placed further back, than in the Mesoplodons.

Curvier’s beaked whale is one of the best beaked whale candidates for study as it can be found regularly in certain specific areas and often has distinctive scarring and colouration. It is often shy of vessels but does occasionally allow close approach at times. It i’s also a species for which there are growing concerns about the effects of high intensity industrial sounds; naval exercises have been implicated in the stranding of this species in several parts of its range, making long time studies all the more important.

Cuvier's Beaked Whale Surface Sequence
Typical Surface Sequence © Phil Coles

Cuvier’s beaked whales are sometimes sighted alone and it’s likely that single animals are mature males, indicated by heavy scarring. On other occasions they are encountered in groups of two to eight (up to 25 have been rarely recorded). These groups often appear to be of mixed composition, with at least one adult male and adult females. It does seem that females usually leave mixed sex pods to raise their young. The species feeds on deep sea fish and squid and probably dives for an hour or more to considerable depths to forage. They are often seen logging or swimming slowly at the surface, perhaps resting after a deeper dive. They are general undemonstrative but have been seen breaching on numerous occasions.

All rights reserved. No part of this web site may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording without the prior permission of Organisation Cetacea. For Trade enquiries on any Organisation Cetacea report or newsletter please e-mail the ORCA Secretary. For general enquiries please e-mail the ORCA Webmaster. Organisation cetacea is a registered charity no 1098765.