Weight: 4,000-6,800 lbs (1,845-3,090 kg)
Length: 15-23 ft (4.5-7 m)
Appearance: a round and robust dark gray to a reddish-brown body, with a triangular "falcate" dorsal fin and an indistinct "beak"
Lifespan: 60 years
Diet: mostly squid and octopus, also eats fish and crustaceans
Behavior: found individually or in small groups from 2-12 animals; they are deep divers
Cuvier's beaked whales, sometimes called "goose-beaked whales," are members of the beaked whale family (Ziphiidae). They can reach lengths of about 15-23 ft (4.5-7 m) and weigh 4,000-6,800 lbs (1,845-3,090 kg). There is no significant "sexual dimorphism" in regards to body size for this species. These medium-size whales have a round and robust body, with a triangular "falcate" dorsal fin located far down the animal's back. The head is a sloping concave-shape with no obvious "melon", an indistinct beak, and a large slit-like blowhole. The jaw-line is slightly upturned giving the whale a "smiling" appearance. The profile of the head is sometimes described as goose-like. Like other beaked whale species, males have two small cone-shaped teeth erupting out of the tip of the bottom jaw that are often used for fighting.
A Cuvier's beaked whale's body has variable coloration that ranges from dark gray to a reddish-brown, with a paler counter-shaded underside. The reddish-brown coloration is caused by the infestation of microscopic "diatoms" and algae. The body is often covered with linear scratches and oval-shaped scars. As this species grows older, they become paler, develop a more significant indentation on the top of the head and accumulate more scarring (especially males). There is a whitish coloration on the face and dark-colored patch around the eye.
Many species of beaked whales (especially those in the genus Mesoplodon) are very difficult to distinguish from one another (even when dead). At sea, they are challenging to observe and identify to the species level due to their cryptic, skittish behavior, a low profile, and a small, inconspicuous blow at the waters surface; therefore, much of the available characterization for beaked whales is to genus level only. Uncertainty regarding species identification of beaked whales often exists because of a lack of easily discernable or distinct physical characteristics.
When at the surface, Cuvier's beaked whales rarely breach or display other active behavior. Their small blow is about 3 ft (1 m) tall, angled slightly forward and to the left, and occurs in 20-30 second intervals, often making it barely visible to observers. As they swim, their head and body will roll high out of the water. When preparing for a deep, vertical dive, they may arch their back more than normal and usually display their flukes. These whales are typically found individually or in small groups from 2-12 animals, but groups of up to 25 animals have been reported. Lone animals are most likely males.
Like other beaked whales, they are deep divers. Cuvier's beaked whales are capable of diving up to at least 3,300 ft (1,000 m) for 20-40 minutes to opportunistically feed on mostly cephalopods (e.g., squid and octopus) and sometimes fish and crustaceans. A pair of ventral throat grooves help to create a vacuum within their mouths, allowing the whales to suck in their targeted prey.
Cuvier's beaked whales reach sexual maturity at lengths of 18-20 ft (5.5-6.1 m) for males and 20 ft (6.1 m) for females, which is usually between 7-11 years of age. Breeding and calving can apparently occur year round, but often during the spring. After a year-long gestation period, females give birth to a single calf every 2-3 years. Newborn calves, dark black or blue in coloration, are about 6.5-9 ft (2-2.7 m) long and weigh 550-660 lbs (250-300 kg). They have an estimated lifespan of up to 60 years.
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