Marine Mammal Stranding Database

Marine Mammal Species Description

Gervais' Beaked Whale

Mesoplodon europaeus

(Gervais, 1855)


Order: Cetacea
Family: Ziphiidae
Alternate Common Names: Gulf Stream beaked whale, Antillean beaked whale, European beaked whale.

Status: protected under MMPA


   Length: 12.1-17.1 ft (3.7-5.2 m)
   Weight: around 2,650 lbs (1,200 kg)

Gervais' beaked whales have a small triangular dorsal fin near the back half of their body. Males have a pair of teeth that are visible near the front of the lower jaw. Barnacles are known to attach to the exposed teeth of males. They are dark gray on their backs and lighten to light gray on their bellies. Some females have a white patch on their ventral sides near the anus. Older individuals generally have some scarring on their body, either lines or round scars.


This whale occurs in warm, deep waters. There are very few sightings of this species so little of their life history is known. One school of nine Gervais? beaked whales was observed in the Bahamas, which contained three different subgroups. Visual observation of diving individuals recorded short dives of 9-28 minutes in length.


Gervais' beaked whales eat mostly squid. Their diet may also include some fish and crustaceans. Records of diving and echolocating Gervais? beaked whales show they can dive over 1260 ft (384 m) in depth while feeding.


Females likely give birth to a single calf at a time.


Most information about this species comes from a few sightings of this species at sea and stranding records. The maximum estimated age for this species is 48 years old.

Distribution / Range:

Gervais' beaked whales occur in the temperate Atlantic Ocean south to and below the Equator to southern Brazil and Angola. Off the coast of the United States, records are mostly from strandings, which have been recorded from New York south to Texas.

Similar species:

This species is most likely confused with other members of the beaked whale genus Mesoplodon. In the genus Mesoplodon, females of different species are hard to tell apart. Males can be distinguished by their tooth placement and beak and mouth shape.



Culik B. 2010. Odontocetes. The toothed whales: "Mesoplodon europaeus". UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Bonn, Germany. Accessed January 2012.

Gillespie, D., C. Dunn, J. Gordon, D. Claridge, C. Embling, and I. Boyd. 2009. Field recordings of Gervais' beaked whales Mesoplodon europaeus from the Bahamas. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 125: 3428-3433.

Mead, J.G. 1999. Gervais's beaked whale, Mesoplodon europaeus. In The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Wilson, D.E. and S. Ruff, eds., 311-312. Smithsonian Institution in association with the American Society of Mammologists, Washington DC.

Mead, S.A. and J.G. Mead. 2001. Mesoplodon europaeus. Mammalian Species Number 688: 1-5.

Pitman, R. 2009. Mesoplodont Whales - Mesoplodon spp. In: Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals 2nd Ed. Perrin W.F., B. Würsig, and J.G.M. Thewissen, eds. Academic Press, New York, pp. 721-726.

Rosario-Delestre R.J., M.A. Rodríguez-López, A.A. Mignucci-Giannoni, and J.G Mead. 1999. New records of beaked whales (Mesoplodon spp.) for the Caribbean. Caribbean Journal of Science 35:144-148.

Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L. 2008. Mesoplodon europaeus. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. Downloaded on 09 January 2012.