Scientific Name: Mesoplodon hectori
Other Names: New Zealand Beaked Whale, Skew-Beaked Whale
Known for its very small head, the Hector’s Beaked Whale actually has the smallest skull of any of the Mesoplodons. They are very rarely spotted. In fact, there have been only two probable sightings, both in California in 1976. Other than these, this species is only known by dead specimens that have been found or washed up, and those that have been stranded on the shore. Not only is it rarely seen, but it is also difficult to identify in the ocean waters. It is often confused with other species.
Drawing of a Hectors Beaked Whale.Mesoplodon hectori © Wurtz-Artescienza
The scratched, fusiform body is dark grey or a brown grey-black on top, with a pale grey or even white belly. Around the navel is frequently a pure-white area.
The small head has a slight melon on top with a relatively short beak. This beak is usually pale grey or white. Two teeth on the bottom jaw jut out of the front of the beak. In males, these teeth stick out even when the mouth is closed.
The small dorsal fin usually has a rounded tip and a slightly concave trailing edge. The two pectoral fins are short and straight. The tail flipper, or fluke, has no central notch, giving it a very straight trailing edge. In males, the fluke is grey on the top and pale grey or white on the bottom.
Adult Hector’s Beaked Whales reach a length of about four metres (or 14 feet) and a weight of between one and two tonnes.
Not much is known about the behaviour of the Hector’s Beaked Whale. In the only two sightings of this whale, the animal approached the boat, curiously examining it and its passengers. So, from these two cases, it has been supposed that they may be quite inquisitive and approachable. However, if this is true, then many more Hector’s Beaked Whales should have been spotted at sea, unless their population numbers are particularly low.
The extensive scarring on the bodies of the males suggests aggressive behaviour.
Where to Find Them
Based on their stranding incidents, the Hector’s Beaked Whale is known to live mainly in the cool, temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere. Most reports of strandings are from New Zealand. However, the fact that the only two sightings of these whales was off the Californian coastline (that is, in the Northern Hemisphere) raises some questions. Were these simply strays? Or is there a larger, more widespread population than initially believed?
Hector’s Beaked Whales have only two teeth, both in their lower jaw. Therefore, they are not accomplished hunters. They prefer to dine on soft, meaty squid.
Due to the lack of information on this whale species, their threats remain unknown. However, as humans continue to pollute the earth’s oceans, all marine life is in danger.
For more information, please go to: http://uk.whales.org/