Strap-toothed beaked whale

Mesoplodon layardii

Although rarely seen, the male strap-toothed whale is one of the few beaked whales that can be accurately identified at sea.

The adult has two large tusks that grow up and over the upper jaw, making it impossible for them to open their mouth more than a few inches.

Other names: Layard's beaked whale, strap-toothed whale

beaked whale illustration
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 6.1m 6.2m 2.2m
Maximum weight Unknown 1,300kg Unknown

IUCN conservation status: Data Deficient

What do strap-toothed beaked whales look like?

The strap-toothed beaked whales’ body is black in colouration with a large white patch on the top at the front, which goes around the neck and down under the chest. They have a has slightly rounded ‘melon’ where the forehead slopes down to one of the longest beaks (slender and pale in colour) of all beaked whales. A rather distinctive black patch of colour is found over the eyes and across the forehead. Strap-toothed beaked whales have small, narrow flippers and a small dorsal fin set quite far back on the body. As with other beaked whales, male strap-toothed whales often have white scratches and scars on their bodies, suggesting competition amongst rivals.

What's life like for strap-toothed beaked whales? 

Strap-toothed beaked whales have been seen floating motionless on the surface, but they don’t let boats get too near, and are known to sink out of sight when approached. Although not thought to be an acrobatic species, breaching has been recorded by some individuals. As with some other species of beaked whale, they are known to break the waters surface at a steep angle, beak-first.

Where do strap-toothed beaked whales live?

Strap-toothed beaked whales to inhabit cold temperate waters in the southern hemisphere and have been recorded around the coasts of New Zealand, Australia, Tasmania, South Africa, Namibia, the Falkland Islands, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

What do strap-toothed beaked whales eat?

Like other beaked whales and other deep divers, they are thought to feed primarily on squid.

Distribution map

Strap-toothed beaked whale distribution map

Strap-toothed beaked whales need your help

The main threats...

  • Noise pollution – Strap-toothed beaked whales are vulnerable to naval sonar and seismic activity.
  • Bycatch – Entanglement in fishing gear is likely to be one of the predominant threats to this deep-water species.
  • Plastic – stranded individuals have been found with plastic in their stomachs.

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