HUBB’S BEAKED WHALE
By Amelia Meyer
Scientific Name: Mesoplodon carlhubbsi
Other Names: Arch-Beaked Whale
This distinctive whale is rather easy to identify out at sea. They have a clear white, raised cap on the tops of their heads around their blowhole and huge teeth that emerge from an obvious hump on each side of its mouth (in males). The Hubbs’ Beaked Whale is sometimes confused with a Minke Whale, Blainville’s Beaked Whale, Gingko-Toothed Beaked Whale or Stejneger’s Beaked Whale. Females and juveniles are not as distinctively marked as males and are, therefore, extremely difficult to identify at sea.
Drawings of a Hubb’s Beaked Whales
Mesoplodon hectori © Wurtz-Artescienza
This dark-grey or black whale has a very distinctive white cap and beak, making it easier to spot than many other species. The two teeth, both embedded in the bottom jaw, erupt from the mouth in males, sticking out from massive bumps on either side of the head. In females, the arch of the jaw line is far less pronounced with much smaller humps, giving them a gentler, softer appearance. The dark body is covered with long scars as well as small light spots.
The dorsal fin is small and curves back. It is situated far behind the centre of the body. This whale’s dorsal flippers are also relatively small and non-descript. The fluke is dark on the top side and pale underneath, with no real notch in the centre. There might be a small nick, but it generally has a rather straight trailing edge.
Adult Hubbs’ Beaked Whales reach lengths of between five and 5.3 metres (or an average of 16.5 and 17.5 feet). They weigh between one and 1.5 tonnes.
There has only been one possible sighting of the Hubbs’ Beaked Whale in the wild. Therefore, little is known about its behaviour. This has led scientists to believe that, like most of the Mesoplodon whales, it is shy. Extensive scarring on the males’ bodies suggests that they are somewhat aggressive with one another.
Where to Find Them
The Hubbs’ Beaked Whale can be found in the cold temperate waters of the eastern and western North Pacific. Records of strandings or bones of these whales washing up are mainly from California. But, there have also been reports from Ayukawa, Honshu, in Japan. This is a small fishing village at which the cold Oyashio Current meets the warm Kuroshio Current.
The Hubbs’ Beaked Whale feeds mainly on squid, but will indulge in fish from time to time, depending on the availability within its habitat. Its two teeth are not designed for tearing at flesh, so it will stick to foods that are easy to seize and swallow.
Although little is known about this whale and threats to its population numbers, they have been found tangled and drowned in fishing nets. This is a tragic and traumatic way for the animal to die, and it is essential that measures be taken to avoid such catastrophes in the future.