MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Sowerby's beaked whale (Mesoplodon bidens)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

Mesoplodon bidens is a toothed whale and can be recognised as such by the single blowhole and the presence of teeth (rather than baleen). It is a member of the beaked whale family with the characteristic V-shaped crease on the throat and the short dorsal fin set relatively far back. Sowerby's beaked whale is a small beaked whale that can reach up to 5.5 m in length. The lower jaw has a single pair of teeth (exposed only in adult males). The forehead rises at a shallow angle and has a slight bump. It has a distinct beak and the mouthline is curved down at rear. Sowerby's beaked whale has a charcoal grey dorsal and lateral colouration with a lighter belly. Adults may also have light grey spots on the body and are often covered with scratches and scars.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Recorded at various locations in the British Isles but most commonly seen off the north coasts of Scotland and north-east England.

Global distribution

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Habitat

Sowerby's beaked whale is an oceanic and coastal species that may be seen at the surface but little is known on what depth they may dive to.

Depth range

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Identifying features

  • Up to 5.5 m in length.
  • Small dorsal fin two-thirds down the body.
  • Distinct, relatively long beak.
  • Small head with shallow rising forehead with a small bump.
  • Pair of V-shaped throat grooves.
  • Mouthline curved down at the rear.

Additional information

Sowerby's beaked whale may be confused with True's beaked whale Mesoplodon mirus but can be recognised by a slight bump on the forehead and a slightly longer beak. Sowerby's beaked whales are usually found either alone or in groups of up to 10 individuals. Little is known about their behaviour although tail-slapping has been recorded. Dives may last up to 15 minutes long (Kinze, 2002).

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Further information sources

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Bibliography

  1. Bruyns, W.F.J.M., 1971. Field guide of whales and dolphins. Amsterdam: Publishing Company Tors.

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. Jefferson, T.A., Leatherwood, S. & Webber, M.A., 1994. FAO species identification guide. Marine mammals of the world. Rome: United Nations Environment Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

  4. Kinze, C. C., 2002. Photographic Guide to the Marine Mammals of the North Atlantic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from: http://www.nbnatlas.org.  Accessed 01 April 2017

  6. OBIS,  2017. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2017-11-22

  7. Reid. J.B., Evans. P.G.H., Northridge. S.P. (ed.), 2003. Atlas of Cetacean Distribution in North-west European Waters. Peterborough: Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Mesoplodon bidens Sowerby's beaked whale. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Available from: http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/109

Last Updated: 02/06/2008