STEJNEGER’S BEAKED WHALE
By Amelia Meyer
Scientific Name: Mesoplodon stejnegeri
Other Names: North Pacific Beaked Whale, Sabre-toothed Beaked Whale, Bering Sea Beaked Whale
The mysterious Stejneger’s Beaked Whale is rarely seen alive. In addition to having a limited distribution, it is also inconspicuous at sea. Therefore, its population is unknown, as is its typical behaviour and details of its life and instinctual habits. Mature males have two huge flat teeth that erupt in the centre of the bottom jaw, creating a hump in the jaw line. They sometimes curl in toward one another, cutting into the top lip.
Drawing of a Stejnegers Beaked Whale.
The entire body is dark grey, black or brown with white scarring on the belly. There is also frequently light-coloured oval scarring on its flanks. The beak is fairly long and lighter in colour than the rest of the body.
The dorsal fin is proportionally small with a slightly concave trailing edge. Behind it is a prominent ridge running all the way down to the tail fin. The pectoral flippers are situated far forward and are small and narrow. The fluke (or tail fin) is wide and triangular with straight trailing edges and no central notch.
Stejneger’s Beaked Whale adults measure about 5.3 metres (or around 17 feet) in length and weigh between one and 1.5 tonnes.
When they have been observed in the wild, the Stejneger’s Beaked Whale has been known to travel in small groups of about five to 15 individuals, swimming so close to one another that they are almost touching. They usually dip down for around five shallow dives, followed by a long dive of about 10 to 15 minutes. When they travel in groups, the pods tend to be made up of different ages and genders. In all of the cases, they have not been known to approach boats or allow vessels to approach them.
Where to Find Them
Stejneger’s Beaked Whales are only known to live in the cold temperate and subarctic waters of the Sea of Japan and the North Atlantic. Most of the sightings occurred off the coast of Alaska. This species tends to prefer deep waters.
Males are equipped with only two bottom teeth and females and juveniles have none at all. Therefore, the Stejneger’s Beaked Whale feeds on soft squid or octopus and, occasionally, small fish.
Because they are so elusive, these whales escape many of the threats presented to other cetaceans. However, fishing nets remain a huge problem as they entangle the animal and prevent it from being able to reach the surface for air.
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