Northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus)

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



Hyperoodon ampullatus 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. The Northern bottlenose whale is a large beaked whale that can reach up to 10 m in length. The lower jaw has a single pair of teeth (exposed only in adult males). It has a very distinct beak and a very steep, often bulbous forehead. It has a dark grey to chocolate brown dorsal and lateral colouration and somewhat lighter below. Much of the face may be light grey in colour. Adults are often covered with scratches and scars.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Has been found at several locations around the British Isles but more expected off north-west Scotland.

Global distribution



The northern bottlenose whale is an offshore species. It may be seen breathing at the surface or diving down to a depth of up to 1,000 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Up to 10 m in length.
  • Small dorsal fin two-thirds down the body.
  • High bulged forehead and well-demarcated beak.
  • Pair of V-shaped throat grooves.
  • Mouthline curved up at the rear.

Additional information

The northern bottlenose whale may be confused with Cuvier's beaked whale Ziphius cavirostris but can be recognised by having a very distinct beak and a very steep, often bulbous forehead. Northern bottlenose whales are usually found in small pods of 4 to 35 individuals, with some degree of either age or sex segregation. It can be seen, on occasion, to leap clear out of the water. Dives may last up to 2 hours long (Kinze, 2002).


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  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. 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.


  1. Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records recorded over 15 years ago. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-25.

  2. Dumfries and Galloway Environmental Resources Centre, 2017. Mammal records for Dumfries and Galloway. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-27

  3. Fife Nature Records Centre, 2018. Fife Nature Records Centre combined dataset. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-09-27.

  4. Merseyside BioBank., 2017. Merseyside BioBank (verified). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  5. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  6. Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, 2017. NBIS Records to December 2016. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  7. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-05-18

  8. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Mammals (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.

  9. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service., 2017. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (SBIS) Dataset. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.

  10. The Mammal Society., 2017. National Mammal Atlas Project, online recording. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.

  11. Whale and Dolphin Conservation, 2018. WDC Shorewatch Sightings. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Hyperoodon ampullatus Northern bottlenose whale. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 18-05-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 02/06/2008