Gervais' beaked whale

Mesoplodon europaeus
Other names: 
  • Antillean beaked whale
  • European beaked whale
  • Gulf stream beaked whale
Maximum length: 
  • Male: 4.6m
  • Female: 5.2m
  • Calf: 2.1m
Maximum weight: 
  • Male: Unknown
  • Female: 1,200 kg's
  • Calf: Unknown
  • Squid
  • Small fish
  • Shrimp
Estimated population: 
IUCN Listing: 
CITES Appendix: 
CMS Appendix: 
Not Listed

Most of the information about the Gervais' beaked whale has been gleaned from strandings and a handful of confirmed sightings at sea. Positive identification of this species is difficult without close inspection or genetic confirmation and therefore it can be confused with other beaked whales in its range.


The Gervais' beaked whale has a slightly bulging forehead and a pronounced, narrow beak of medium length. Males can be identified by a single pair of teeth located a third of the way from the tip of the beak to the corner of the mouth; these teeth are noticeable even when the mouth is closed. The female does not show tooth eruption. The Gervais' beaked whale has a robust, spindle-shaped body and a small shark-like dorsal fin. There is no notch in the slightly concave flukes. The skin is dark grey or marine blue on the upper body, and the underside is pale grey, which provides a sharp contrast. The belly often has irregular white blotches. In juveniles, the belly is white. Scarring of the skin on males suggests that there may be male infighting, perhaps related to determining who gets to mate.


Little is known about Gervais' beaked whales due to a lack of sightings at sea. They are probably deep divers living in small groups or pairs far offshore.


The first recorded specimen of Gervais' beaked whale was found floating in the English Channel in 1840. Since then they have mostly been reported on the western side of the North Atlantic, with the majority of reports coming from the Southwest North Atlantic. Off the coast of North America it is the Gervais' beaked whale that is the most frequently stranded member of its family. They have also been recorded off the Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and south to Uruguay. In the eastern part of their range they are thought to be distributed from the UK in the north to Angola in the south. Threats to Gervais' beaked whales are thought to include entanglement in fishing gear, noise pollution and climate change. The worldwide population is not known though the species is thought to be rare. Gervais' beaked whale is listed by IUCN as Data Deficient.

Distribution map: