Beaked Whales: an introduction

Drawing credit: Bordrock

Drawing credit: Bordrock

The “B” section of the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals has now taken us to the beaked whales, the toothed-whales belonging to the family Ziphiidae. Not as much is known about these whales that prefer to hang out in the deep ocean diving for squid.

In fact, the 21 species of beaked whales have had so little interaction with human’s that most haven’t been christened with proper common names and instead must suffer with names like Andrew’s beaked whale, Sowerby’s beaked whale, Longman’s beaked whale, well you get the idea. According to the encyclopedia article by James G. Mead, the only beaked whales seen regularly by fishermen are the northern bottlenose whale and the Baird’s beaked whale, the latter still suffering a bummer common name.

Beaked whales are recognized by their stout beaks that blend into a high forehead, without the normal break distinguishing the two typical to most dolphins. They also do not have the common notch in the tail, instead having a flowing flat top across their flukes and their backs are accented by a small triangular dorsal fin.

And despite their squid diet, most beaked whales do not have many teeth, which may be why their beaks slope more abruptly. The shape of their mouths do have similarities to an elderly person who has lost a lot of teeth and refuses to deal with dentures. There are no teeth along the upper jaw, but adult males may have one or two pairs along the lower jaw. It’s not clear from the article why females are left without teeth.

So there you have it, an introduction to a family of deep diving toothed whales, that really doesn’t have many teeth.

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