Marine Mammal Stranding Database

Marine Mammal Species Description

Cuvier's Beaked Whale

Ziphius cavirostris

G. Cuvier, 1823


Order: Cetacea
Family: Ziphiidae
Alternate Common Names: Goose-beaked whale

Status: protected under MMPA


   Length: 16-24.6 ft (5-7.5 m)
   Weight: around 5,510-6,610 lbs (2,500-3,000 kg)

Cuvier's beaked whales have a short beak, a pair of grooves on their throat, small falcate dorsal fin located on the back half of their body, and small flippers. Their small flippers can be folded back and laid down in a small depression in their body. Males have a pair of teeth that are visible at the front of their jaw. Barnacles are known to attach to the exposed teeth of males. They are dark to medium gray or brown overall with a lighter or white head. As males age their heads and backs tend to become lighter and may be white. They tend to have dark crescents around the eyes. Older individuals generally have some scarring on their body, either lines or round scars.


Cuvier's, like other beaked whales, mainly occur in deep waters, greater than 3281 ft (>1,000 m). These whales are typically found alone or in small schools of less than seven individuals.


Cuvier's beaked whales eat squid, fish, and crustaceans. Sightings of Cuvier's beaked whales documented them feeding by diving at depths down to 728-6,190 ft (1,888 m). These deep dives occurred once every two hours and lasted up to 85 minutes. Shorter length and depth dives occur between their deep dives.


The estimated size for sexually mature females is around 17.4 ft (5.3 m) and around 18 ft (5.5 m) for males.


The oldest documented female Cuvier's beaked whale was 30 years old and the oldest male was 36 years old.

Distribution / Range:

These whales occur in temperate and tropical waters worldwide. Of all of the beaked whales, they have the widest distribution including all waters except the polar regions.

Similar species:

This species is most likely confused with beaked whales in the genus Mesoplodon. Cuvier's beaked whales have a shorter beak than the other species of beaked whales.



American Cetacean Society. 2004. American Cetacean Society Fact Sheet. Accessed January 2012.

Baird R.W., D.L. Webster, D.J. McSweeney, A.D. Ligon, G.S. Schorr , and J. Barlow. 2006. Diving behaviour of Cuvier's (Ziphius cavirostris) and Blainville's (Mesoplodon densirostris) beaked whales in Hawai'i. Canadian Journal of Zoology 84: 1120-1128.

Heyning, J.E. 1999. Cuvier's beaked whale, Ziphius cavirostris. In The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Wilson, D.E. and S. Ruff, eds., 305-306. Smithsonian Institution in association with the American Society of Mammologists, Washington DC.

Heyning, J.E. and J.G. Mead. 2009. Cuvier's Beaked Whale - Ziphius cavirostris. 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.

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. Ziphius cavirostris. In: IUCN 2011. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. Downloaded on 09 January 2012.

Tyack P.L., M. Johnson, N.A. Soto, A. Sturlese, and P.T. Madsen. 2006. Extreme diving of beaked whales. Journal of Experimental Biology 209: 4238-4253.