Shepherd’s beaked whale is a medium to large-sized whale within the beaked whale family.
Although extremely rare these whales may be spotted traveling in the cold waters of the southern hemisphere.
Limited information has been obtained regarding this whale species.
Most of what is known about these whales comes from examinations of beached/stranded whales and a handful of rare observations.
Shepherd’s beaked whale belongs to one of over 15 known beaked whales within the toothed whale suborder.
As part of the toothed whale suborder these whales possess 17 – 27 pairs of teeth in both their upper and lower jaws with males also possessing a pair of tusks on their lower jaw.
At full maturity Shepherd’s beaked whale can reach lengths of 20 – 24 ft. long and weigh nearly 7,000 lbs., while newborn baby whales may measure in at close to 10 ft. long.
These whales have large bodies that are dark gray with a light gray to white underside that extends its coloring near the flippers rare end of the whale towards the flippers.
As with other beaked whales the dorsal fin is set about 2/3 down the whales back.
They also appear to have teeth that contribute to grabbing and consuming prey unlike other beaked whales.
Because Shepherd’s beaked whale is a marine mammal it is warm-blooded, breathes air, gives birth and produces milk.
They may also consume a variety of other small cephalopods.
As stated earlier Sheperd’s beaked whale is a toothed whale therefore it likely uses echolocation at night in order to locate potential food and navigate the ocean.
Limited data suggests that Shepherd’s beaked whale primarily in cool waters in the southern hemisphere.
These whales have been found in various locations such as Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and prefer to inhibit deep offshore waters.
Worldwide distribution and population numbers are unknown.
Social Structure & Breeding
Because of their offshore nature observations of Sheperd’s beaked whale has remained rare and difficult.
These whales have been spotted traveling in groups of 3 – 12 whales, which suggests that they may prefer to be accompanied by other whales rather than traveling solo.
Nothing is known about their gestation period, breeding habits, age of sexual maturity or lifespan.
As a species however the gestation period for whales is known to vary from 10 months all the way up to 17 months among various whale species.
And the average lifespan of whales can vary from 25 – 100 years with a few species (such as the bowhead whale) known to live as long as 200 years.
For more information regarding the average gestation period, breeding habits and lifespan of various whale species check out these additional resources:
Shepherd’s beaked whale isn’t known to face any threats from hunting or poachers, however it is unsure whether or not they have been affected by pollution or have any natural predators such as sharks.