Ask a Whale Scientist – Cuvier’s Beaked Whales

A what?  Most people have probably never heard of a Cuvier’s beaked whale let alone  seen one.  So why are we talking about these elusive whales?  Well, I’m fortunate to have friends who do some pretty cool stuff and my friend Jenny Trickey is no exception.  She’s a whale acoustician (she listens to whale sounds) at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography in La Jolla, CA.  By listening to whales she can figure things out like, how many whales are in a particular area and how many different kinds of sounds they can make.  In some cases, acousticians can even start to parse out what these whales are actually saying to each other! Jenny has a fondness for Cuvier’s beaked whales and is involved in an ongoing research project aimed at studying them in the wild, which is why we’re talking about them today! Click on the video to learn more about these unique marine mammals. I rather enjoy our faces in this snapshot.


If you want to help fund this research project, you can make a donation here.  I made my donation and I hope you will make one, too, before the fundraising campaign closes on April 30th, 2017.

Here are a few photos of the Cuvier’s beaked whales:

Photo credit: Rodrigo Huerta

An older male Cuvier's (Rodrigo Huerta).JPG

Photo credit: Sergio Martinez

Pair of Cuvier's (Sergio Martinez).JPG

One of Jenny’s colleagues, Mauricio Hoyos,  captured some underwater video of them in Mexico:

To learn more about Guadalupe Island, visit the wikipedia page. NOAA has some great information about these whales and if you visit the Voices of the Sea page you can hear a recording of a Cuvier’s beaked whale call. Even Wired magazine and National Geographic have written articles about this elusive being.  As Jenny mentioned, Naval sonar can pose a risk to these animals and you can read more about that here.

If that weren’t enough, Jenny wanted me to leave you with these fun facts about beaked whales. In her own words, “Only mature male beaked whales have teeth, but they’re just two tusk-like teeth on the lower jaw, and used for fighting, not eating (beaked whales use suction feeding to eat squid). The teeth on male Cuvier’s are pretty subtle, but other species have really crazy looking ones.  Barnacles will actually colonize some of their teeth, such as Blainville’s beaked whales’, and the teeth of male strap-toothed beaked whales are so big that they actually limit how much they can open their mouths. There are currently 23 known species of beaked whales (a number that seems to be growing, as the latest one was just discovered last year). Some of these species have never been seen alive at sea, and are only known from stranded animals or museum specimens.”

I hope you enjoyed meeting my friend Jenny and learning about Cuvier’s beaked whales. Don’t forget to leave a comment below!

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