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Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)

Diputación de Málaga
Zifio de Cuvier (Ziphius cavirostris)

Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


The Cuvier's beaked whale or goose-beaked whale is brown or grey when it is young with a lighter head and belly. As they grow, the head and the back of the neck become lighter.

They can get some oval whitish spots on the flanks and around the belly. The head is relatively small with a peculiar snout that looks like a duck's peak. Adult males have a couple of teeth close to the lower jaw.

There is an indentation behind the blowhole on the head, and two depressions that make the shape of a V under the lower jaw. The pectoral fins are small and round, placed on a slight depression on their body.
Their dorsal fin, which is small and placed on the second third of the body, is triangular. Tail is wide without a notch. Males can be 6.7 m long and females 7 m. Their weight is from 5000 to 6000 kg.


They live in all oceans except in polar areas. They also live in eastern and western part of the Mediterranean Sea.

How They Live

This is a rather unknown species, as it is difficult to be seen due to its evasive tactics. It is a pelagic species which prefers up to 1,000 m deep waters.

Cuvier's Beaked Whales feed off cephalopods, although they also prey on crustaceans and fish. They live in small groups of not more than 10 whales, deep down where there is no light. Therefore, they use their powerful echolocation system which helps them find prey in complete darkness. When they hunt, they can dive dipper than 1000 m. They have an average lifespan of 30 years.


As mentioned before, this species is very mysterious as well as its reproduction. Apparently, they do not have a special season for breeding, and they can become sexually mature at the age of 11, when they get longer than 5 m.

Threats and Conservation Measures in Andalusia

This species is one of the most affected by underwater sonar. Actually, scientists agree that these machines are guilty of massive stranding of beaked whales all over the world. Thanks to some happenings in the Canary Islands, it was proved that the prohibition of the use of sonar in the areas where whales are abundant is the best way to prevent them from stranding.

Places Where They Can Be Seen

Considering this is a rare species and that it is difficult to be seen, spotting them is more a question of luck than of the right method. There was an adult individual swimming for a few days in the port of Motril before it disappeared.


Beaked whales have small depressions on the flanks, just behind the pectoral fins. They fold their fins into them in order to protect them while they are diving through undersea caves.

One of the saddest cases that has been attended by the Marine Species Recovering Centre or Aula del Mar (Sea Classroom), was a female that died while giving birth, and which was found stranded on the coast in Vélez-Málaga. During the autopsy, the body of the young was fund in the birth canal and its life-size model was made and presented in the above museum. This model seems so real that you can see the lines on the body which were created due to its foetal position.

Similar Species

Beaked whales are a rather wide group of animals which include a lot of species. It is not easy to make a difference between all of them as they can be very similar. The best way to distinguish these species is to ask experts or send a photo to the Sea Classroom.

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