In 1823, after mistaking a fragment of skull for a fossil, the French naturalist Georges Cuvier described a seemingly extinct species of whale. Several decades after his death, it became apparent that, far from being extinct, Cuvier's beaked whale was actually a relatively abundant, living species, occurring in offshore waters of all the world's oceans (1) (2) (4). Like the other beaked whales, this enigmatic cetacean has a robust, cigar-shaped body, a small dorsal fin set well back on the body, and relatively small flippers (2). The gently sloping forehead of this species grades into a short, stubby beak, while the lower jaw juts out well beyond the upper jaw (2) (5). Skin colouration varies considerably amongst individual whales, but most lie somewhere between dark slate-grey and rusty brown (4) (5). With age, and especially in males, the head, neck and back become lighter, such that the heads of very old males appear almost completely white (2) (4) (5). However, an even more distinct feature of adult males, are two large, cylindrical teeth which protrude somewhat incongruously from the tip of the lower jaw (4) (5). The extensive linear scarring, commonly seen on the sides of males, is evidence of the damage these teeth can inflict when males fight amongst each other for females (2) (4) (5). In addition, both sexes often have white oval scars, which are most likely inflicted by lampreys or cookie-cutter sharks (2).
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