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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Gervais' Beaked Whale
Order Cetacea : Family Ziphiidae : Mesoplodon europaeus (Gervais)

Gervais' Beaked Whale (Mesoplodon europaeus).  Illustration by Pieter A. Folkens.Description. A rather small whale with a prominent beak and only one large tooth in each lower jaw, placed about 15 cm back from the tip and beside the posterior end of the symphysis of the lower jaws. In males this tooth is large, protrudes from the closed mouth, and fits into a groove in the skin of the upper lip; in females the tooth usually does not project above the gums so that the animal appears to be toothless. No teeth in upper jaw. Upperparts of body described as dark slate black; lowerparts lighter; no special or distinctive markings. External measurements of an adult male reported by J.C. Moore: total length, 4.3 m; circumference immediately in front of flipper, 1.85 m; width across flukes, 91.5 cm; height of dorsal fin, 18.7 cm; distance from corner of eye to corner of mouth, 20 cm. Maximum known length, 5.45 m. Skulls of females are larger than those of males so the assumption is that females are also larger in body size than males.

Distribution in Texas. Gervais’ beaked whales are known primarily from the western North Atlantic. They are the most commonly stranded beaked whale in the Gulf of Mexico with several strandings on Texas beaches known. Although there are no population estimates for these whales, they are thought to be rare.

Habits. Almost nothing is known about the life history of these whales. They are believed to inhabit deep waters close to shore but little information is available on movements. They are known to feed on squid and fish.

Strandings of these whales are believed to be associated with calving, which probably takes place in shallow waters. A 4-meter female with a 2-meter calf stranded in Jamaica and a pregnant female with a near term fetus stranded along the Texas coast.

Specific data on the reproductive habits are not available.

Illustration credit: Pieter A. Folkens.