Whale Wednesday: Beaked Breakthrough - Oceana USA
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November 4, 2009

Whale Wednesday: Beaked Breakthrough

It’s been a while since we started the Whale Wednesday weekly feature, and I don’t think beaked whales have ever gotten their day in the spotlight. Today’s the day, then, for this mysterious group of cetaceans.

The BBC reports that researchers from Duke University observed the largest group of Arnoux’s beaked whales — around 60 — ever recorded, off the coast of Antarctica.

Male beaked whales have tusks that emerge from their lower jaws, and in general beaked whales are deep divers. Of the 21 known species of beaked whales, only a few are well-known, including the Cuvier’s beaked whale and the Baird’s beaked whale.

But their obscurity hasn’t made the members of the Ziphiidae family safe from threats.  As trawl nets have gone into deeper waters, the enigmatic creatures have become more frequent bycatch victims. 

As one of the Duke scientists, Dr. Ari Friedlander, told BBC, “The Arnoux’s were a unique and amazing experience. Hopefully this brief glimpse will spawn further work to better understand the species, their distribution and behaviour, and how these animals fit into the larger ecology of the southern ocean.”