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Gervais’ beaked whale

Mesoplodon europaeus

The first recorded specimen of Gervais' beaked whale was found floating in the English Channel in 1840.

Despite this, most of the information about the Gervais' beaked whale has been gleaned from strandings and a handful of confirmed sightings at sea.

Other names: Antillean beaked whale, European beaked whale, Gulf stream beaked whale

beaked whale illustration
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 4.6m 5.2m 2.1m
Maximum weight Unknown 1,200kg Unknown

IUCN conservation status: Least Concern

What do Gervais' beaked whales look like?

The Gervais’ beaked whale has a robust, spindle-shaped body and a small shark-like dorsal fin. The upper body is dark grey or marine blue whilst the underside is pale grey, providing a sharp contrast. Juveniles have a white belly which in adults often has irregular white blotches. At the front they sport a slightly bulging forehead and a pronounced, narrow beak of medium length. Males and females can be told apart as males have 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.

What's life like for Gervais' beaked whale? 

Very little is known about Gervais' beaked whales due to a lack of sightings at sea. Like other beaked whales they are probably deep divers living in small groups or pairs far offshore. Scarring of the skin on males suggests that there may be infighting, perhaps related to determining who gets to mate!

What do Gervais' 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.

Where do Gervais' beaked whales live?

Gervais’ beaked whales are thought to prefer warm temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean although an even more defined preference would be for deep waters in both tropical and sub-tropical locations. Most of the reports of Gervais’ beaked whales comes from the western side of the North Atlantic, with the majority coming from the Southwest North Atlantic. Off the coast of North America it is the Gervais' beaked whale that is the most frequently stranded of all beaked whales.

Distribution map

Gervais' beaked whale distribution map

Gervais' beaked whale need your help

The main threats...

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

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