Gervais beaked whale

Mesoplodon europaeus


Azores : Bico de garrafa - POR : Baleai de bico de Gervais - ITA : Mesoplodonte de Gervais - SPAIN : Ballenato de hocico de Gervais - GB : Gervais’ beaked whale - GER : Gervais Schnabelwal - JAP : Higasi america ogiha kujira.


Adults measure 4 to 5 m long and weigh 1 to 2.5 tons, and exceptionally they can reach 5.6 tons. Newborns are 2 m long and they weigh about 50 kg. This species presents a single pair of teeth located in the lower jaw. The teeth are only visible in the adult males, even with their mouths closed, but are not visible in the females. In adults, the back and sides are dark gray and the belly is lighter. In proportion to the rest of the body, the head is small and the frontal region is rounded. This species presents a V-shaped pair of short grooves on the throat. They feed essentially on squid and deep water pelagic fish. They can live up to 30 years.


We are rarely able to observe this species in the Azores, and the few times we have succeeded, we have not been sure of their correct identification. Nevertheless, we are sure that the species we observed were Mesoplodon, but there are doubts as to whether or not they were europaeus. These animals live in small groups and, in some cases, only couples can be found living together. Similar to the Sowerby's beaked whale, the Gervais emerges with the beak distinctly out of the water. However, in this last case, the beak is shorter and more robust. Also, the Gervais is frequently covered by scars that testify to probable fights among males. One should be very careful when trying to identify Ziphidea in the Azores. With the exception of the Northern bottlenose whale, whose size and shape of the head does not allow for any doubts, it is extremely difficult to identify the other Ziphidea species in this region, both at sea and from land. It is possible that other Ziphidea species (e.g., M. densirostris and M. mirus) can also be found in the Azores. It is practically impossible to differentiate between females and males.

Cetaceans in the Azores