"The beaked whale project"

Why this study ?

These whales are, in the end of this century, still a mistery to us, due to the absence of information about them. These species are extremely difficult to observe and to study and simple questions still have no answers:

- How many calves do they have?
- How much time do they spend diving to feed?
- How long do they nurse their calves?
- How do they communicate?


In the Azores 25 species of cetacean occur regularly making this region one of the best places in the world to observe these animals, regarding the quantity and the quality of the experience. From this total of 25 species, 10 are dolphins, 7 are baleen whales, 3 toothed whales and 5 are beaked whales. The Ziphidae family (beaked whales) two species will be targeted during this study, Mesoplodon bidens and Hyperoodon ampullatus.


To gather these information it is necessary to accomplish visual transects, using teodolith and binoculars, in 3 of our look-outs, as well as photo-identification and sampling for genetic analysis, from our boats.

Data gathering will take place during the next 4 years. The statistical analysis and publication of the information will take 1 more years making a total period of 5 years to accomplish the entire project.

Main aims of present study :

This scientific study has as a first priori to determine the presence of the following 5 species in the south of Pico: Sowerby's beaked whale (mesoplodon bidens), Gervai's beaked whale (mesoplodon europaeus), True's beaked whale (Mesoplodon mirus), Cuvier' s beaked whale (ziphius cavirostris), Northern bottlenose whale (hyperoodon ampullatus) and their populations level.


In a second phase the project will focus on the social structure of 2 species: Sowerby's beaked whale, (mesoplodon bidens) and Northern bottlenose whale (hyperoodon ampullatus).


Northern bottlenose whale Sowerby's beaked whale Cuvier' s beaked whale Gervai's beaked whale


Where will the study take place ?

The study will take place in the south of Pico, in the Azores Archipelago. This Archipelago is located in the North Atlantic and it is composed by 9 islands between parallels 37° - 40° N of latitude and 25°- 32°W of longitude.

What has already been done :

Espaço Talassa team is already motivated and involved in this project and to demonstrate that information collection already started. During 6 months (April-October) information of Sowerby's beaked whale and Northern bottlenose whale were collected from the look-outs, with binoculars STEINER 15*80, on a daily basis between 09.00 and 19.00. We should mention the fact that the observation from the boats was performed during the same period of the day, registering occurrence and sightings location together with unique images of Sowerby's beaked whale and notes on the behaviour of these magnificent. Besides these 2 species (Mesoplodon bidens and Hyperoodon ampullatus) 2 others were registered Mesoplodon europaeus and Ziphius cavirostris, missing confirmation of a single specie, Mesoplodon mirus.

Northern bottlenose whale Sowerby's beaked whale  Northern bottlenose whale  Sowerby's beaked whale