Andrew’s beaked whale belongs to the scientific order of cetaceans.
The whale received its name from scientist Roy Chapman Andrews after the collection of a specimen retrieved from Brighton Beach, New Zealand in 1904.
Andrews christened it, honoring George Bowdoin, an associate and trustee of the American Museum of Natural History.
Its scientific designation is Mesoplodon bowdoini and it belongs to a family of 22 species of beaked whales.
These marine mammals have the distinction of being elusive and rarely seen at sea.
Specimens have only been collected and studied from strandings that occurred as of 2001 from New Zealand and southern Australia, totaling 35 individuals.
In 2008, only one specimen was spotted in the wild, making the Andrew’s beaked whale one of the poorest known whale species.
Physical Description and Appearance
Andrew’s beaked whales are medium-sized whales, with males reaching 15 feet, and females attaining 16 feet.
Young whales may average 7.2 feet at birth or smaller.
Weights range from 900 to 1,400 kgs, or around 2.6 tons for the adults.
The male coloration ranges from grayish blue, to dark blue to black, with a blunted white beak.
The female has on overall slate gray color with grayish-white undersides and flanks.
The melon sits low on the top of the head.
Visible teeth are present in both genders at mid-beak and curve outward.
The male’s teeth protrude outside the mouth line, distinguishing it from the female.
The body contains a small triangular dorsal fin that sits near the back.
The tail flukes have frilled edges and they breath through one blowhole next to the melon.
Diet and Hunting Methods
It is believed they may also subsist on small bony fish and marine mollusks when their primary food source is absent.
Social Structure and Communication
Social interaction between Andrew’s beaked whales is confined to a short period of time regulated to mating and coupling.
Other than mating and calving season during New Zealand’s summer and autumn, they are solitary creatures capable of deep diving in pursuit of food prey.
Rarely seen in groups, it is believed that no more than six individuals form small family pods.
They spend very little time at the surface, preferring to remain at the deeper depths.
Their bodies are equipped with fin pockets, allowing the fins to be tucked in to decrease drag during swimming and diving.
Reproduction and Lifespan
It is believed that the these whales attain sexual maturity when they have reached near or maximum growth.
The breeding cycle is seasonal and estimated to last between June and September.
Females appear to give birth to young when they have reached at least 4.3 meters long.
Newborn size estimates range from 1.6 meters to slightly longer or shorter lengths.
The birthrate is suspected to be low and infrequent, with reproduction of newborns happening every three to four years.
Males are rarely seen with mating scars, leading to the conclusion that competition amongst them is limited or nearly nonexistent.
The lifespan of these marine mammals is unknown however most beaked whales that have been observed were between the ages of 25 – 40 with one beaked whale (Baird’s beaked whale) having a recorded lifespan of 84 years.
Habitat and Range
Habitat and range of Andrew’s beaked whale can be gleaned only from strandings found in the Southern Hemisphere near Macquarie Island, the Falkland Islands, New Zealand, Tristan da Cunha and southern Australia.
It has been conjectured that their range consists of a circumpolar distribution since they have been spotted near Tierra de Fuego at a point near the Antarctic convergence, but this fact has not been confirmed.
They do prefer the temperate waters, and a certain specimen of Andrew’s beaked whale, Mesoplodon bowdoini, inhabits areas in the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
These whales can be found swimming in deep ocean and coastal environments.
The depth of their food prey suggests that they deep-dive below the 1000 meter mark to take advantage of the squid distribution found there.
Their dives are estimated to last up to and possibly longer than 45 minutes.
Threats and Conservation
The 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act protects Andrew’s beaked whale.
Upon the enforcement of the MMPA, all hunting, capturing, killing and harassing of the whales by U.S. Citizens was halted and is strictly enforced to this day.
This includes a ban on any product associated with the mammal that may be imported into the country.
There have been no incidents of direct hunting or slaughter of Andrew’s beaked whale.
A probability exists that they are subject to accidental gill-netting and longline capture, and some stranded related species were found with discarded plastic ingested into their systems.
Like all cetaceans, these whales are vulnerable to seismic testing explosions and navy sonar.
Long term global warming trends could have a direct impact on their range and seasonal mating habits.
8 Educational Andrew’s beaked whale facts
1) Andrew’s beaked whale is one of around 90 different species within the cetacean species and makes up one of over 20 known species of beaked whale.
2) The name Andrew’s beaked whale comes from Roy Andrews who assisted with capturing a collection of specimen in New Zealand in 1904.
3) The beaked whale falls under the marine mammal protection act and any attempts to hunt these marine mammals could lead to criminal charges.
4) Andrew’s beaked whale is a toothed whale therefore it possess teeth, however due to our limited understanding of this species information regarding dentition remains extremely limited and no conclusive information can be formed on this topic.
5) Due to their small size and assumed limited range these marine mammals are one of the most poorly understood species in the whale family and have remained fairly unobserved for many decades.
6) Because observations of these marine mammals remains low it is possible that Andrew’s beaked whale may be a naturally rare species and therefore additional caution must be made to protect these whales from reproductive stresses or even possible extinction, especially in commercial areas.
7) The oldest known beaked whale was last recorded at the age of 84 which was Baird’s beaked whale.
8) As with other species increasing man made ambient noises, over fishing and pollution are becoming more common concerns regarding the healthy and prosperity of these marine mammals.