Hector's Beaked Whale
, is a small Mesoplodont
living in the Southern Hemisphere. This whale is named after Sir
, a founder of the colonial
museum in Wellington, New Zealand. Some specimens that have washed
up and been sighted in California that were once thought to belong
to this species have subsequently been shown through analysis of
mtDNA and detailed morhological examination to be a new
species,Perrin's Beaked Whale
(Dalebout et al.
2002). As of 2007, they have yet to be
seen alive in the wild.
Note that some data supposedly referring to this species,
especially juveniles and males, turned out to be based on the
misidentified specimens of Perrin's Beaked Whale - especially since
the adult male of Hector's Beaked Whale was only more recently
described. See Perrin's Beaked
for specimen data. Dalebout et al.
specifically list Mead (1981), Mead (1984), Mead & Baker
(1987), Mead (1989), Baker (1990), Jefferson et al.
(1993), Mead (1993), Carwardine (1995), Reeves & Leatherwood
(1994), Henshaw et al.
(1997) and Messenger & McQuire
(1998) as erroneously attributing data from the new species to
Hector's Beaked Whale.
Reaching a maximum length of about 4.2 meters (1.9 m when born),
and with an estimated weight of about 1 tonne (1.032 tons),
Hector's is one the smallest of the beaked whales. It is known from
only a few stranded animals. Hector's Beaked Whales are dark
greyish-brown dorsally, paler ventrally and may have white or pale
lower jaws. The melon, which is not very prominent, slopes quite
steeply to the short beak. Adult males have a pair of flattened,
triangular teeth near the tip of the lower jaw. As with most other
beaked whales, the teeth do not erupt in females. The dorsal fin is
triangular to slightly hooked, small, and rounded at the tip. The
leading edge of the dorsal fin joins the body at a sharp
Nothing is known about the diet of this species, although it is
assumed to feed on deepwater squid
. Because they lack functional teeth, they
presumably capture most of their prey by suction.
With only two probable sightings, there is little information on
the behavior of this whale. This species may be unusual for a
Mesoplodon because, in both sightings, one of the animals seemed
inquisitive and actually approached the boat. Body scarring
suggests there may be extensive fighting between males, which is
common in beaked whales.
Nothing is known about breeding in this species. Sightings are rare
due to their deep-ocean distribution, elusive behaviour and
possible low numbers.
Population and Distribution
Hector's Beaked Whale has a circumpolar distribution in cool
temperate Southern Hemisphere waters between approximately 35° and
records are from New Zealand, but there are also reports from
Islands, Lottering River, South
Bay, Tasmania, and
Fuego, in southern South
This species has never been hunted at all, and has not entangled
itself in fishing gear. Most sightings of the whale have been
stranded specimens on beaches, particularly in New Zealand.
- (1990): Whales and dolphins of New Zealand and Australia:
An identification guide. Victoria University Press,
- (1995): Whales, dolphins and porpoises. HarperCollins,
- (2002): A New Species of Beaked Whale, Mesoplodon
perrini sp. n. (Cetacea: Ziphiidae), Discovered Through
Phylogenic Analysis of Mitochondrial DNA Sequences. Marine
Mammal Science 18(3): 577-608. PDF fulltext
- (1997): Identification of beaked whales (family Ziphiidae)
using mtDNA sequences. Marine Mammal Science
13(3): 487-495. (HTML abstract)
- (1993): FAO species identification guide: Marine mammals of
the world. United States Environment Programme & Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome.
- (1981): First records of Mesoplodon hectori
(Ziphiidae) from the northern hemisphere and a description of the
adult male. Journal of Mammalogy 62(2):
430-432. (First page image)
- (1984): Survey of reproductive data for the beaked whales
(Ziphiidae). Report of the International Whaling Commission
Special Issue 6: 91-96.
- (1989): Beaked whales of the genus Mesoplodon.
In: : Handbook of marine mammals Vol.4: 349-430. Academic
- (1993): The systematic importance of stomach anatomy in beaked
whales. IBI Reports 4: 75-86.
- (1987): Notes on the rare beaked whale, Mesoplodon
hectori (Gray). Journal of the Royal Society of New
Zealand 17: 303-312.
- (1998): Morphology, molecules and the phylogenetics of
cetaceans. Systematic Biology 47(1):
90-124. (HTML abstract)
- (2002): Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic
Press. ISBN 0-12-551340-2
- (1994): Dolphins, porpoises and whales: 1994-98 Action plan
for the conservation of cetaceans. IUCN,
Gland, Switzerland. ISBN 2-8317-0189-9
- (2002): Sea Mammals of the World. A & C Black,
London. ISBN 0-7136-6334-0