Adult Male © Phil Coles

Quick Facts
Length 3.9m Distribution
Along the tropical Pacific coast of the Americas from southern California to Chile. Has also stranded in New Zealand.
Weight ? Identification
Small size and triangular dorsal fin. Males have a variable but distinctive pale cape and dark cap on a paler head. Beak is comparatively short leading to rounded melon. Teeth in adult males on raised jaw line.
Diet Deep sea squid and fish. Threats Frequently caught in gill nets.
Group size 2-3  

The Peruvian beaked whale is one of two species that have been discovered in the past 15 years (the other being Perrin’s Beaked Whale). It is the smallest known beaked whales, with adults being only about 3.5m in length, which has given rise to its alternative name of pygmy beaked whale. It also has the ignominious distinction of being the only marine mammal described as a consequence of fisheries bycatch, the first 10 specimens described all having been caught in the shark drift net fishery off the coast of Peru.

This species is believed to be the same as Mesoplodon ‘A’ which was identified from a series of sightings during surveys of the Eastern Pacific in the 1980’s and 90’s which at the time did not fit the appearance of any known species. By 2001 some 65 at-sea sightings had been made in the warm waters from Mexico to Peru suggesting it be largely restricted to this area, however, a stranding has since been documented from North Island, New Zealand potentially suggesting a wider distribution in the tropical Pacific.

From the at sea-sightings this is known to be a relatively distinctive short-beaked species. Adult males have a white beak and pale dorsal saddle contrasting with the darker dorsal fin. They are also heavily marked on the flanks and underparts with pairs of parallel combat scars. Females and young animals appear to have a less contrasting colouration, darker above, lighter below, with no scarring. Little is known about their social structure, but Peruvian beaked whales have been seen in groups of two to six individuals.

Key references:

Reyes J.C et al (1991) A new species of beaked whale Mesoplodon peruvianus sp. n. (Cetacea: Ziphiidae) from Peru. Marine Mammal Science 7, (No. 1) p1-24

Pitman R.L and Lynn M.S. (2001) Biological observations of an unidentified mesoplodont whale in the eastern tropical Pacific and probable identity: Mesoplodon peruvianus. Marine Mammal Science 17 p648-657


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