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Bottlenose whale

A bottlenose whale is either of two species of whale, members of the ziphiid family. The two species—the northern bottlenose whale Hyperoodon ampullatus and the southern bottlenose whale Hyperoodon planifrons—are the sole members of the Hyperoodon genus. Whilst they are physically similar their stories over the past two hundred years are rather different. The southern bottlenose has been rarely observed, was seldom hunted, and is probably the most abundant whale in Antarctic waters. The northern species on the other hand was hunted heavily by Norway and Britain in the 19th and early 20th century.

Physical description

The two species are fairly rotund and measure in length when adult. The melon is extremely bluff. The beak is long and white on males but grey on females. The dorsal fin is relatively small at and set behind the middle of the back. It is falcate (sickle-shaped) and usually tipped. The back is mid-to-dark grey in the Northern species and light-to-mid grey in the Southern. Both species have a lighter underside.

Weight estimates are hard to come by. For the northern bottlenose whale, is given somewhat consistently. For the southern bottlenose whale, there is a single figure of 68 tonnes.

Population and distribution

The northern bottlenose whale is endemic to the North Atlantic Ocean and is found in cool and subarctic waters such as the Davis Strait, the Labrador Sea, the Greenland Sea and the Barents Sea. They prefer deep water. The total population is unknown but likely to be of the order of 10,000. "The Gully", a huge submarine canyon east of Nova Scotia, has a year-round population of around 160 whales.

The southern bottlenose whale has a circumpolar distribution in the Southern Ocean. It is found as far south as the Antarctic coast and as north as the tip of South Africa, New Zealand's North Island and the southern parts of Brazil. The global population is unknown.

Sightings of apparent bottlenose whales in tropical and subtropical waters probably belong to a poorly known species, Longman's beaked whale. The relationship of that species to other beaked whales has not been established.

There are many ways to tell the difference of males and females besides checking the underside. The males are normally a dark grey or black, and the females and calves are a white or very light gray.

On 20 January 2006, a northern bottlenose whale was spotted in Central London in the River Thames. The River Thames whale reached as far up river as Albert Bridge. It was moved onto a barge and rescuers hoped to take it out to sea, but it died following a convulsion on 21 January during its rescue. Its skeleton is now in the Natural History Museum in London.


Prior to the beginning of whaling of northern bottlenoses it is estimated that there were 40,00050,000 individuals in the North Atlantic. Between 1850 and 1973 88,000 individuals were caught, primarily by Norwegian and British whalers. The population is very likely to be much reduced compared to pre-whaling figures. Since whaling ended the primary concern to conservationists is the number of oil and gas developments around the Gully.

Norway stopped hunting the whale in 1973 but northern bottlenose whales are still hunted in the Faroe Islands, especially in the villages of Hvalba and Sandvik on Suduroy.

The southern bottlenose whale is not believed to be threatened by human actions. The species has seldom been hunted. Forty-two were caught in the Antarctic by Soviet whalers between 1970 and 1982.


Bottlenose Whales in the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals Shannon Gowans, 1998. ISBN 0-12-551340-2

National Audubon Society Guide to Marine Mammals of the World Reeves et al., 2002. ISBN 0-375-41141-0.

Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises Carwardine, 1995. ISBN 0-7513-2781-6

External links

Marine Bio: Northern Bottlenose Whale

Marine Bio: Southern Bottlenose Whale

70South - information on the Bottlenose Whale

Northern Bottlenose Whale

BBC: Whale spotted in central London

Whale & Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)

Northern Bottlenose Whale - ARKive bio

Northern Bottlenose Whale - The Beaked Whale Resource

Southern Bottlenose Whale - The Beaked Whale Resource

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Bottlenose whale

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