Gervais' beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus)

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



Gervais' beaked whale Mesoplodon europaeus 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. Gervais' 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. It has a distinct beak and the mouthline is curved down at rear. Gervais' beaked whale has a charcoal grey dorsal and lateral colouration with a lighter belly. Adults may have clear scratches and scars on the body.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

One specimen was found in the English Channel and one off County Sligo in Ireland, but possibly due to identification difficulties its distribution is poorly known.

Global distribution



Gervais' 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


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.
  • No teeth at front of the mouth.

Additional information

Gervais' beaked whale may be confused with True's beaked whale Mesoplodon mirus but it has conspicuously smaller flippers. Gervais' beaked whales are usually found either alone or in small groups. Very little is known about their behaviour and dive duration due to the relative lack of sightings (Kinze, 2002).


  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. Moore, J.C. & Wood, F.D., 1957. Differences between the beaked whales Mesoplodon mirus and Mesoplodon gervaisi. American Museum Novitates, 1831, 1-25

  6. Norman, S.A. & Mead, J.G. 2001. Mammalian Species, No. 688, Mesoplodon europaeus. Mammalian Species Accounts. American Society of Mammalogists.

  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.


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

  2. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-06-15


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Mesoplodon europaeus Gervais' beaked 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 15-06-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 02/06/2008