Adult © Phil Coles

Quick Facts
Length Males up to 9.8m, females 8.7m Distribution
North to Arctic waters and south to Nova Scotia and occasionally the Azores, in deep water more than 1000m deep
Weight 5,800-7,500 kg Identification
large size and huge, square, often pale melon over smaller beak
Diet mostly squid with some deep sea fish and invertebrates Threats
Occasional whaling, habitat destruction to gas and oil exploration, noise pollution
Group size 1-10 (30+ have been recorded)  

This species is one of the best known beaked whales. Unfortunately much of our knowledge came initially from large scale whaling operations, mainly from Britain and Norway which has left the population depleted to this day.

It is now a protected species and interested has grown in studying the animals alive at sea. For the past two decades the Northern bottlenose whale has been the subject of a study off the coast of Nova Scotia in a deep sea trench known as the Gully. Thanks to this research we are gradually coming to know more about these elusive animals. Around 250 individual individuals are thought to use the Gully and is believed that at least some of them are year round residents. Whaling data suggested that the northern bottlenose whale was migratory and it does seem to be in many parts of its range. Its specific habitat use throughout its range remains poorly known.

Northern bottlenose whales are endemic to the North Atlantic and are one of the most northerly occuring of the beaked whales, frequently entering Arctic waters. They are found throughout the temperate zone, particularly around the continental shelf and other deep sea escarpments and in areas where the water is at least 1,000m deep. They are known to be deep divers – staying under for an hour or more and perhaps reaching depths of up to 1,500m. They are often encountered in small groups of up to ten individuals.

Northern bottlenose whale can be distinguished by its large size, big bulbous head and short beak. In adult males the head is typically white and the lower jaw is tipped with a pair of acorn shaped teeth. The beak is shortest in juveniles and seems to get longer in adult females as they mature.

The northern bottlenose whale has been known to be quite active at the surface – lob-tailing, breaching and spy-hopping. This charismatic species has one feature that was its downfall in the past and now endears it to whalewatchers and researchers – it is a curious species that will often approach quiet vessels for a closer look.


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