YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
This week’s ocean-dwelling denizen might look familiar. But if you look closely, things aren’t quite what they appear.
That’s not a dolphin at all, it’s a beaked whale!
Keep reading to see just how Wowzerful these enigmatic whales truly are!
Beaked whales love deep waters so there is still a lot that scientists don’t know about them.
Of the 22 known species, scientists really only know 4 of them with any amount of certainty. These include:
Baird’s beaked whale (Berardius bairdii)
Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
Hubb’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon carlhubbsi)
Stejneger’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon stejnegeri)
Larger species, such as the Baird’s beaked whale can reach up to 13 meters (42.6 feet) long. Smaller species still reach a sizable 4 meters (13.1 feet) from the tip of their pointy nose to the end of their streamlined tail.
Their torpedo-like bodies can weigh more than 11,800 kilograms (26,000 pounds) and they can live for nearly 90 years!
Male beaked whales are easy to pick out because they’re typically much larger than female beaked whales. Most also have quite the forehead, making them hard to miss.
Researchers have found beaked whales diving as deep as 500 meters (1,600 ft) in search of food. Since there isn’t much light so far beneath the waves, they use sound to find their food—a trick called echolocation.
Most beaked whales don’t have teeth. This means they have to rely on suction to capture and eat their prey. They accomplish this with the help of throat groovesand a very flexible tongue.
By simultaneously dropping their tongue and expanding their throats, they can rapidly decrease the water pressure in their mouth, giving their prey little warning or time to escape.
Beaked whales prefer the deep waters far off the coastline, so we don’t run into them often. Sightings have occurred from the North Pole to the South Pole and everywhere in between.
Since they don’t fare well in captivity and they are notoriously hard to spot in the wild, your best shot at seeing a beaked whale is on video, so be sure to check out the one below!
Beaked whales are ultra-specialized for diving deep. They can slow down their heart rate and blood flow to preserve oxygen, which helps them stay under the water for longer periods of time.
While dives average roughly one hour, some beaked whales have been known to stay submerged for more than three hours! Don’t try that at home!
A beaked whale’s favourite snack is squid, but small fish or crustaceans will work in a pinch!
Although beaked whales don’t socialize with humans often, they are social animals. Scientists have found they typically travel and live in groups of 5 to 20, staying very close to one another around the clock!
Have a look at what might be the newest species of beaked whale, discovered off the coast of Mexico!