Posted by: Loren Coleman on August 18th, 2011
A month ago, Australian officials found a beached whale. They thought it was a minke, but recently announced it was a Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) – one of only four discovered in the past 150 years by the Queensland Museum. Cuvier’s beaked whales are one of 21 known beaked whale species. It is clear that this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Georges Cuvier first described this species in 1823 from part of a skull found in France in 1804. He thought it represented an extinct species — it wasn’t until the 1870s that it was realized the type specimen represented a living species.
Beaked whales, by far, are the most frequent new marine mammal to be discovered. How many are out there?
||Dalebout, Mead, Baker, Baker & van Helden, 2002
||Perrin’s Beaked Whale
||Mésoplodon De Perrin
||Zifio De Perrin
||Mesoplodon perrini was only described a few years ago, based on five animals stranded on the coast of California (between 33°55′N, 117°15′W and 36°37′N, 121°55′W) from May 1975 to September 1997 (Dalebout et al. 2002). Four of these animals were initially identified as Hector’s Beaked Whales (M. hectori), based on cranial morphology (Mead 1981, Mead and Baker 1987, Mead 1989). A fifth specimen was initially identified as a neonate Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris), based on external features. Sightings of two small beaked whales off California in the 1970s which were tentatively identified as M. hectori (Mead 1981) are also likely to be M. perrini (Dalebout et al. 2002). Although similar morphologically, the genetic data do not support a close evolutionary relationship between M. perrini and M. hectori. Instead, these data suggest a possible sister-species relationship with the pygmy beaked whale M. peruvianus (Dalebout et al. 2002, Dalebout et al. 2004).
Perrin’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon perrini)
For more on the new cetaceans discovered since 2000, see here.