(Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris

 

Meaning of species name is "hollow/cavitated snout", on account of the distinct concavity in the skull, in the region of the melon.

Cosmopolitan in tropical, sub-tropical and temperate waters, the most abundant and widespread of the beaked whales.

At sea identification: Adult body length is 5.5-7 m, coloration variable from brown to purplish-black, lightens with age, occasionally with round, white spotting/scarring on flanks and anal area. Does not show counter-shading (dark above, light below) but mostly the opposite. Frequently bears long sinuous white double tooth rakes, caused by the single pair of teeth in the lower jaw of mature males of its own species. Robust and fusiformed body with a small head, goose-like beak, small pectoral fins and small dorsal fin in front of the posterior 1/3 of the back. Very wide tale flooks, up to a 1/4 of body length. Lurches through water, exposing head when swimming fast. Dives deep and long for up to 40 minutes. Lives in water 1,500-3,000 m deep, solitary or in small groups of up to 7 individuals. Rather boat-shy.

Identifying marks on land: Mouth line is a "grinning" S shaped. Toothless except the two front teeth that erupt in 5-6 year old males.  A V-shaped throat groove is a feature common to all beaked whales and a distinctive indentation behind the blow hole may help differentiate Cuvier's from other beaked whales.

Feeds on deep benthic squid which are located by sonar echoes and are sucked into the beak. Apparently by mistaken identification this species accumulates large quantities of plastic debris (up to 13 kg have been recorded) in its fore stomach. The vulnerability of beaked whales to low frequency active sonar used during Naval maneuvers (which causes mass strandings) has recently spurred intensive research on this least known of the toothed whale families.

Widespread in the Mediterranean, Cuvier's beaked whale has never been sighted in our region. Yet several well-nourished individuals have stranded along the beach, more so on the northern part.

Additional facts:

Adult weight: 2.5 tons (females somewhat heavier)

Newborn length is 2.7 meters and weight is 300 kg

Sexual maturity: 6-7 years.

Life expectancy: At least 40 and up to 60 y and more.

 

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