Blainville beaked whale

Mesoplodon densirostris

With its steeply arched jaw, the Blainville’s beaked whale is both striking and easily recognisable.

Known for its unmistakable arch, the Blainville’s beaked whale’s lower jaw curves sharply upwards. Especially striking, the male’s arch is topped with prominent tusks that point upwards past the upper jaw. Denser than elephant ivory, these distinctive features have earned Blainville’s beaked whales the epithet “dense-beaked whales”.

Other names: Dense-beaked whale

beaked whale illustration
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 4.7m 4.7m 2m
Maximum weight Unknown 1,033kg Unknown

IUCN conservation status: Data Deficient

What do Blainville’s beaked whales look like?

Blainville's beaked whales are highly aesthetic. Their long, slender bodies are steely-blue, sometimes darkening with age, and are covered with lighter blotches. Atop their backs are angular dorsal fins, and underneath their bellies are highlighted by lighter tones. All over their bodies their pretty pale spots are interwoven with scars, some from altercations and others from cookie-cutter sharks. Their flippers are comparatively small in relation to their body size, and they have flat foreheads and long, thick beaks.

What is life like for Blainville's beaked whales?

Where they are studied in the Bahamas, researchers believe that Blainville’s beaked whales often live in and return to the same area, with more males than females found in coastal waters. Forming distinct social circles, it’s believed that male Blainville’s beaked whales defend groups of females. These groups create a sort of ‘harem’, and younger or rival males can be ousted as part of a dominance hierarchy.

When they are not feuding over females, Blainville’s beaked whales are highly attuned divers. They prepare themselves by performing a number of short dives in quick succession, only 15 to 20 seconds apart. Following this, they then plunge deeper underwater and enjoy sustained dives of up to nearly an hour in length. When they are ready to resurface, they point their beak skywards and release small, forward-projected blows. Upon taking a breath, they sometimes slap their beaks on the surface of the water and can roll slightly before disappearing once again.

What do Blainville’s beaked whales eat?

As with other deep-diving beaked whales, squid forms a major part of their diet, with crustaceans and fish also on the menu.

Where do Blainville’s beaked whales live?

Blainville's beaked whales live in temperate and tropical waters of all three of the world’s major oceans. Like all beaked whales, they prefer deep waters but have been found in shallower waters around certain oceanic islands.

Widespread distribution

Blainville’s beaked whales have the most extensive distribution, are the most numerous and are the most tropical of any species of the genus Mesoplodon.

Distribution map

Blainville's beaked whale distribution map
Pink dots indicate sightings outside main distribution area.

Blainville's beaked whales need your help

The main threats...

  • Whaling – Blainville's beaked whales are still hunted in some locations.
  • Pollution – noise, toxic chemicals, plastic, other litter and oil spills all pose a threat to their ocean home.
  • Fishing gear – Andrews' beaked whales may get accidentally caught in fishing nets and lines, injuring or even killing them.

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