True’s beaked whale

Mesoplodon mirus

Given that True's beaked whales are found in two geographically distinct areas, it is thought that there might actually be two different species or sub-species of this beaked whale.

Like other beaked whales True's beaked whales have a ‘flipper pocket’, a small depression on each side of their body thought to assist in streamlining the whale on deep dives.

beaked whale illustration
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 5.3m 5.4m 2.0m
Maximum weight Unknown 1,400kg Unknown

IUCN conservation status: Data Deficient

What do True's beaked whales look like?

Like other beaked whales identification can be confirmed by the two small teeth at the tip of the lower jaw which are visible in the male even when the mouth is closed. Frustratingly however, without a clear view of a male’s head it can be virtually impossible to distinguish between a True's and a Gervais' beaked whale. True's beaked whales have a blue-grey body with white scratches and scars on the back and sides. In the southern hemisphere, individuals have a lighter back and tailstock, making them at least a little bit easier to identify.

What's life like for True's beaked whales? 

True's beaked whale has only been positively identified at sea a handful of times and so very little is known about their behaviour. They have however, been seen breaching repeatedly and they have a tendency to break the surface of the water at an angle, beak first. As with other beaked whales, scratches and scars on stranded animals suggest competition between males.

Where do True's beaked whales live?

True's beaked whales appear to have a preference for colder temperate waters and are generally not encountered within 30 degrees north or south of the equator – adding to the debate which suggests that the northern and southern populations may indeed be separate species or sub-species. In the northern hemisphere they are only known in the North Atlantic, whilst in the southern hemisphere they have been recorded in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

What do True's beaked whales eat?

Like other beaked whales and other deep divers, they are thought to feed primarily on squid, although some smaller fish species may also be taken.

Distribution map

True's beaked whale distribution map

True's beaked whales need your help

The main threats...

  • Noise – True's beaked whales are vulnerable to naval sonar and seismic activity.
  • Bycatch – there is concern that even low levels of bycatch could have unsustainable impacts.
  • Plastic – stranded individuals have been found with plastic in their stomachs.

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