In addition, proponents and land managers should refer to the Recovery Plan (where available) or the Conservation Advice (where available) for recovery, mitigation and conservation information.
|EPBC Act Listing Status||Cetacean|
|Adopted/Made Recovery Plans|
|Other EPBC Act Plans||
Threat abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine life (Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA), 2009t) [Threat Abatement Plan].
|Policy Statements and Guidelines||
Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales (Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW), 2007h) [Admin Guideline].
Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005e) [Information Sheet].
|Scientific name||Ziphius cavirostris |
This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.
Scientific name: Ziphius cavirostris
Common name: Cuvier's Beaked Whale
Other names: Goosebeaked Whale
Cuvier's Beaked Whale is considered to be a well-defined taxon, for which no subspecies are recognised (Dalebout et al. 2005; Rice 1998).
The general body shape of Cuvier's Beaked Whale is similar to that of other beaked whales (ziphiids). That is, rather robust and cigar-shaped, with a small falcate (sickle-shaped) dorsal fin and relatively small flippers (Culik 2003d). The flippers can be tucked into a slight depression along the body wall (Mead 2002). The tail flukes of Cuvier's Beaked Whale are proportionately large, as in other ziphiids. The head is rather blunt in profile with a small, poorly defined rostrum that grades into the gently sloping melon (fatty lump on forehead) (Heyning 2002). The lower jaw extends beyond the upper and the mouth-line is curved up at the back. This peculiar contour of the mouthline, in combination with the profile of the head, produces an appearance that has been likened to a goose-beak - hence the alternative common name (Leatherwood & Reeves 1983). There is a single pair of forward-pointing conical teeth at the tip of the jaw that generally only erupt in adult males and are exposed in large bulls (Jefferson et al. 1993). Between 2426 vestigial teeth approximately 13 mm long and 2 mm in diameter are found in each side of the upper jaw, with about 3133 in each of the lower jaws (Gomerćić et al. 2006). A diagnostic feature of Cuvier's Beaked Whale is the slight concavity on the top of the head (Jefferson et al. 1993).
Pigmentation is dark slate grey over most of the body for males, while females tend to vary in colour from a dark grey to a reddish-brown (Heyning 2002). A characteristic feature is the numerous linear marks due to fighting between males and the light oval patches attributed to cookie-cutter sharks (Isistius sp.). With age, the head and nape become lighter and eventually almost white, a feature that is particularly evident in males (Martin 1990).
The maximum sizes and weight for Cuvier's Beaked Whale are 7.68.5 m for females, and between 7.9150; 9.8 m in males (MacLeod 2006).
Cuvier's Beaked Whales tend to avoid vessels, leading to few confirmed sightings of this species (Heyning 2002). When seen, Cuvier's Beaked Whales are usually alone, but may be in groups up to seven individuals (Heyning 2002).
Cuvier's Beaked Whale is known in Australian waters from 31 strandings (to 1994), mostly from January to July, suggesting some seasonality of occurrence (Ross 2006). Records of Cuvier's Beaked Whale come from Western Australia (five), South Australia (two), Victoria (three), Tasmania (13), NSW (two), Queensland (three), Northern Territory (one), and two at Macquarie Island (Bannister et al. 1996; Nicol 1987; Ross 2006).
The current extent of occurrence for Cuvier's Beaked Whales is estimated to be more than 20 000 km² (based on the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) ( 200 nautical miles (nm), down to 55° S and generally deeper than 200 m)) (Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.). Increasing ocean temperatures predicted by climate change scenarios could potentially increase the extent of occurrence, with warmer water extending beyond 55° S.
The area of occupancy of the Cuvier's Beaked Whale is likely to be greater than 2000 km² (Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.). Future expansion of high-seas pelagic gillnet fisheries may result in increased incidental catches, potentially depleting local waters and leading to a decrease in area of occupancy.
Cuvier's Beaked Whales are considered to occur in one location as deep water is not a barrier to movement, and there are no known unsurpassable pelagic boundaries in the region.
Cuvier's Beaked Whales may have the most extensive range and be one of the most abundant of any beaked whale species (Culik 2003d). Cuvier's Beaked Whale has a worldwide distribution in all temperate and tropical waters, occurring between approximately 60° N and 55° S (Jefferson et al. 1993). The species is absent only from polar waters in both hemispheres (Carwardine, 1995). Geographical variation in morphology has not been analysed (Rice, 1998), but analysis of mitochondrial DNA has suggested that Cuvier's Beaked Whales from the different ocean basins may form distinct populations (Dalebout et al. 2005).
Dalebout and colleagues (2005) provide an estimate of Cuvier's Beaked Whale abundance based on genetic techniques. Although they warn of the lack of robustness in this technique, it is estimated that there may be between 456 000 and 916 000 breeding adults worldwide, of which between 51 000 and 102 000 (11%) may occur in the Southern Hemisphere.
The global threats to Cuvier's Beaked Whale include the apparent inclusion of meat from the North Atlantic in Korean fish markets (Dalebout et al. 2005), implying that there may be far-reaching exploitation of small cetaceans, including Cuvier's Beaked Whales, to supply distant consumption markets (Dalebout et al. 2005). No other recent records of human exploitation exist, although historically there were limited opportunistic takes in the Japanese fishery for the related Baird's Beaked Whale (Heyning 2002). Cuvier's Beaked Whales are occasionally killed by artisanal (traditional) whalers in the tropics, but they are not the subjects of a regular hunt anywhere (Reeves et al. 2003). Curvier's Beaked Whales may also die accidentally in fishing nets in many areas, with the scale of the bycatch being large enough to warrant concern in a number of these areas (Reeves et al. 2003). Cuvier's Beaked Whales also appear to be exceptionally vulnerable to acoustic trauma, as witnessed through mass strandings following military exercises using very loud low frequency sonar (Frantzis 1998; Rowles et al. 2000).
It is currently thought that Australian Cuvier's Beaked Whales form part of a South Pacific regional population group (Dalebout et al. 2005). As Cuvier's Beaked Whale is a deep water species primarily living off the continental shelf, incidental bycatch of animals in countries within this South Pacific region and/or international waters may affect the Australian population.
World-wide, Cuvier's Beaked Whales are not well surveyed. Their distribution has primarily been assumed from limited incidental sightings, plus beach-cast animals, for all areas other than the sub-Antarctic and Antarctic where whale surveys have been conducted.
Cuvier's Beaked Whales are not considered abundant in Australia, as sightings and strandings are rare. The species therefore potentially includes less than 10 000 mature individuals within Australian waters (Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.).
Genetic analysis suggests that Cuvier's Beaked Whales inhabiting different ocean basins belong to separate populations, with animals from Australian waters representing the South Pacific regional group (Dalebout et al. 2005). Dalebout and colleagues (2005) suggest that social groups in Cuvier's Beaked Whales are unlikely to be strongly matrifocal (mother or female centered).
All cetaceans are protected within The Australian Whale Sanctuary under the EPBC Act. The Sanctuary includes all Commonwealth waters from the 3 nm state waters limit out to the boundary of the EEZ (i.e. out to 200 nm and further in some places). Cuvier's Beaked Whales are also subject to International Whaling Commission regulations and protected within the Indian Ocean Sanctuary and Southern Ocean Sanctuary (Bannister et al. 1996).
Off Japan, whaling records indicate that Cuvier's Beaked Whales are most commonly found in waters deeper than 1000 m (Heyning 1989). Cuvier's Beaked Whales are considered to be mostly an oceanic species which appears to be confined to waters within the 10° C isotherm and the 1000 m bathymetric contour (Houston 1991; Robineau & di Natale 1995). Cuvier's Beaked Whales are rarely found close to mainland shores, except in submarine canyons or in areas where the continental shelf is narrow and coastal waters are deep (Carwardine 1995). Shipboard surveys of beaked whales (Mesoplodon spp. and Ziphius cavirostris) from 19911998 along the shelf edge and Gulf Stream waters off the northeast United States showed that these species all frequent similar shelf-edge habitats (Waring et al. 2001). However, a more recent survey of the same area found that this previous proposed definition of beaked whale habitat may be too narrow, and suggested that beaked whales, including Cuvier's Beaked Whale, may be found from the continental slope to the abyssal plain, in waters ranging from well-mixed to highly stratified (Ferguson et al. 2006). Although little is known of the preferred habitat for Cuvier's Beaked Whales in Australian waters, it is likely that similar shelf-edge habitats are utilised by Cuvier's Beaked Whale along much of Australia's extensive coastline.
In the Genoa canyon, in the northern-most arm of the Mediterranean Sea, Cuvier's Beaked Whales were found in areas linked to downwelling of the local water currents, which coupled with the canyon environment, creates an area of high biomass and thus a relatively high local concentration of prey species (MacLeod & D'Amico 2006).
Age and length at sexual maturity for Cuvier's Beaked Whales occur at about 11 years and about 5.5 m respectively (Ross 2006). There appears to be some sexual dimorphism in the maximum ages reached, as males have been recorded at 47 years, while females only appear to reach 28 years. However, this may be due to sampling discrepancies. Natural mortality data are limited, but it is possible that Killer Whales and cookie-cutter sharks (Isistius sp.) occasionally predate on Cuvier's Beaked Whales (Heyning 2002). Other causes of natural mortality may include disease, and effects associated with 'old age' (MacLeod & D'Amico 2006).
Cuvier's Beaked Whale calves are born at about 2.70 m in length (Heyning 2002; Mead 1984). Physical maturity in Cuvier's Beaked Whale is reached at between 5.9 m and 6.13 m (Ross 2006).
The mating and calving season is inferred to be all year round, as no seasonal pattern is evident (Ross 2006). No calving areas are known for Australian waters (Bannister et al. 1996). The gestation period and calving interval for Cuvier's Beaked Whales are unknown, but in beaked whales the interval is expected to be one calf every few years, leading to a slow reproductive capacity.
The range of species found in the diet of Cuvier's Beaked Whale is greater than that reported for any other beaked whale (Santos et al. 2001). Their diet is composed primarily of oceanic cephalopods, with some oceanic fish and crustaceans occasionally included, depending on feeding depth. Limited data from Japanese fisheries indicate a wide variety of squid comprised the bulk of the diet of Cuvier's Beaked Whales taken in waters slightly less than 1000 m, but deep-water fish predominated in stomachs of animals taken in deeper waters (Nishiwaki & Oguro 1972). Decapod and mysid shrimps were also recorded. Stranded animals on the South African coast contained beaks of about 15 species of oceanic squid, in at least eight families; otoliths of morid fish Antimora sp., crustacean fragments (cf. Gnathophausia) and flotsam, including plastic debris, pumice stones and a large seed were all recorded. Similar inclusion of non-food items has been recorded in the north-east Atlantic (Santos et al. 2001) and Adriatic Sea (Gomerćić et al. 2006). This latter study also recorded embedded pieces of gravel in the gum tissue around the tip of the lower and upper jaws, suggesting bottom feeding. However, no other studies have indicated bottom-dwelling prey in the stomachs of Cuvier's Beaked Whale (Santos et al. 2001).
Off Australia, Cuvier's Beaked Whales also appear to feed primarily on oceanic squid, many of which have also been recorded from studies elsewhere in the world (Bannister et al. 1996). The stomach of a large male Cuvier's Beaked Whale stranded in Victoria contained beaks of about 500 individual squid. Fifteen of the beaks belonged to Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, accounting for 60% of the total estimated intake by weight. The stomach contents also included histioteuthid squids comprising a further 20% by weight, the remainder representing the families Mastigoteuthidae, Onychoteuthidae and Vampyroteuthidae (Bannister et al. 1996).
Only adult male Cuvier's Beaked Whales have functional teeth, comprising a single pair of flat triangular and sometimes barnacle-encrusted teeth either side of the lower jaw (Shirihai 2002). They appear to be used as weapons in agonistic encounters, leading to heavy scarring of older animals. The high diversity of prey found in stomachs of Cuvier's Beaked Whales suggests that they may be opportunistic in their feeding habits (Heyning 2002). It is thought that beaked whales feed primarily by suction and that the characteristic throat grooves allow the throat region to expand as they slurp in their prey (Heyning 2002). As Cuvier's Beaked Whales lack functional gripping teeth, prey may be seized and disabled using the hard edges of the mandibles and the rostral palate before ingestion (Bannister et al. 1996).
The presence of plastic bags in the stomachs of Cuvier's Beaked Whales around the world is of concern, as its apparent feeding habit of sucking in prey, in conjunction with increasing levels of plastic pollution in the oceans, result in an increased chance of Cuvier's Beaked Whales ingesting plastic.
Genetic data suggests that Curvier's Beaked Whale may exhibit seasonal latitudinal migrations, similar to Humpback Whales (Bannister et al. 1996; Dalebout et al. 2005). Stranding data from Australia occur mostly from January to July (Ross 2006), suggesting some seasonality of occurrence. However, year-round records in some portions of its range (Japan and New Zealand, Ross 2006) suggest that only a portion of the population undergoes seasonal flux.
Although Cuvier's Beaked Whales are difficult to detect, their distinctive colouration, head shape and unusual mouthline should enable identification, or at least distinguish them from the other beaked whales with which they share their range (Jefferson et al. 1993; Shirihai 2002).
When swimming fast, Cuvier's Beaked Whales may project their heads above the surface, revealing their characteristic concave whitish face and very short beak, with the dorsal fin and upper back relatively exposed and highlighting the numerous pale scars (Shirihai 2002). Cuvier's Beaked Whales will arch their back and lift their tail flukes in vertical descent of deep dives (Shirihai 2002).
Cuvier's Beaked Whales are notoriously difficult to identify at sea (Heyning 2002) due to their propensity to spend little time at the surface, breathing only a few times before submerging for periods up to 30-40 minutes (Miyazaki & Wada 1978). Whilst at the surface they are slow moving and inconspicuous. The blow is bushy and directed slightly forward, but is low, diffuse and often inconspicuous (Heyning 2002). The blow is therefore rarely visible, except on the first exhalation after a deep dive, and usually is less than 1 m high (Shirihai 2002). The number of breaths within each surfacing series has been estimated at between 10 and 30 (Barlow & Sexton 1996, in MacLeod & D'Amico 2006). Cuvier's Beaked Whale appears to avoid vessels (Heyning 2002), often surfacing long distances from where they submerged and thereby adding to their difficulty to survey. Occasional breaches will enhance detectability of Cuvier's Beaked Whales (Shirihai 2002).
Cetacean surveys are constrained by several important factors including weather (e.g. sea state and light conditions), area to be covered, aim of the survey (abundance estimate versus ecological studies), the activities of the animals themselves (e.g. traveling, resting, surface versus deep feeding), and the type of craft used for the survey.
Surveys for oceanic cetaceans such as beaked whales have primarily been boat-based transects. There have been almost no dedicated cetacean surveys conducted in Australian waters, but surveys conducted in the Antarctic and sub-Antarctic have covered substantial portions of potential range of Cuvier's Beaked Whales. During non-dedicated surveys, a minimum requirement is to record all cetacean sightings encountered with corresponding GPS position, environmental data (sea conditions and habitat) and behavioural observations. From fishing vessels, all incidentally caught animals should be recorded with corresponding GPS position, plus attempts should be made to obtain basic biological information from dead animals (Peddemores 2006, pers. comm.).
Entanglement in drift-nets and other nets set, lost or discarded in international waters represent a current threat to Cuvier's Beaked Whales that may increase in the future (Ross 2006).
Pollution leading to accumulation of toxic substances in body tissues, is considered to be a low threat (Bannister et al. 1996), considering the primarily oceanic nature of Cuvier's Beaked Whales. However, the discovery of ingested plastic bags in stranded animals (Gomerćić et al. 2006; Santos et al. 2001) suggests that increasing levels of plastic pollution could be a more serious threat to the species.
Recently, there have been a number of studies investigating the impacts of anthropogenic noise on beaked whales, particularly activities that transmit sounds into the water column. These studies have, in part, been driven by mass strandings of beaked whales coinciding temporally and spatially with naval manoeuvres (MacLeod & D'Amico 2006). For example, necropsies (autopsies) of stranded Blainville and Cuvier's beaked whales following low frequency acoustic sonar tests have revealed tissue trauma associated with an acoustic or impulse injury that caused the animals to strand (Frantzis 1998). It has been noted that beaked whales with group sizes of less than 20 (including the Mesoplodon spp.), and particularly groups composed primarily of immature, juvenile or cow-calf pairs, may be more susceptible to strandings associated with anthropogenic noise, although it is not known why this might be the case. Anthropogenic sounds may disrupt or interfere with the sounds produced by beaked whales, including disruption of navigation, and/or interfere with social communication. While data is limited, where there is data beaked whales appear to use relatively high frequency echolocation (up to 120 kHz or more) and non-echolocation sounds in the region of one to 16 kHz (MacLeod & D'Amico 2006).
Although little is known about reproduction in beaked whales, it is likely that Cuvier's Beaked Whales have a low reproductive rate, producing one offspring every few years. This means that population recovery is a slow process.
Bannister and colleagues (1996) and Ross (2006) recommended the following measures to be taken to better understand the threats to the Cuvier's Beaked Whale:
- Determine the distribution and monitor abundance of Cuvier's Beaked Whales in Australian waters to assess the possible impact of threats, particularly the effect of direct and indirect fishing activities. This could be done via a sighting program to monitor numbers, particularly in waters over the edge of the continental shelf.
- Obtain information on the Cuvier's Beaked Whale diet to determine their trophic level and assess any possible impact of the fishing industry on beaked whale food resources.
- Obtain basic biological information (including diet, reproductive status, pollutant levels and genetic samples) from incidentally-caught and stranded Cuvier's Beaked Whale specimens, and ensure specimens are made available to appropriate scientific museums to enable collection of life history data and tissue samples for genetic analysis.
Current projects initiated to address these threats include a requirement to report all incidental catches made within the Australian EEZ; conducting of disentanglement workshops, particularly for offshore fishers; and development of suitable action plans (Bannister et al. 1996).
The following documents may inform protection and management:
- The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans (Bannister et al. 1996).
- Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching (Department of the Environment and Heritage 2005e).
- Review of the Conservation Status of Australia's Smaller Whales and Dolphins (Ross 2006).
- Draft East Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the East Marine Region (DEW 2007a)
- Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales (DEW 2007h).
- The North Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the North Marine Region (DEWHA 2008).
- North-West Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the North-West Marine Region (DEWHA 2008b).
- Threat abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine life (DEWHA 2009t).
No threats data available.
Bannister, J.L., C.M. Kemper & R.M. Warneke (1996). The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans. [Online]. Canberra: Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/publications/cetaceans-action-plan/pubs/whaleplan.pdf.
Carwardine, M. (1995). Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. Page(s) 257 pp. London, UK: Dorling Kindersley.
Culik, B. (2003d). Ziphius cavirostris Cuvier, 1823. Review on Small Cetaceans: Distribution, Behaviour, Migration and Threats. [Online]. Compiled for the Convention on Migratory species (CMS). www.cms.int/reports/small-cetaceans/. [Accessed: 04-Sep-2007].
Dalebout, M.L., K.M. Robertson, A. Frantzis, D. Engelhaupt, A.A. Mignucci-Giannoni, R.J. Rosario-Delestre & C.S. Baker (2005). Worldwide structure of mtDNA diversity among Cuvier's beaked whales (Ziphius cavirostris): implications for threatened populations. Molecular Ecology. 14:3353-3371.
Department of the Environment and Heritage (2005e). Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/publications/whale-watching-guidelines-2005.html.
Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) (2007a). Draft East Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the East Marine Region.
Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) (2007h). Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/epbc/publications/seismic.html.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008). The North Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the North Marine Region. [Online]. Canberra: DEWHA. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/publications/north/pubs/bioregional-profile.pdf.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2008b). North-West Marine Bioregional Plan: Bioregional Profile: A Description of the Ecosystems, Conservation Values and Uses of the North-West Marine Region. [Online]. Canberra: DEWHA. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/mbp/publications/north-west/bioregional-profile.html.
Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts (DEWHA) (2009t). Threat abatement plan for the impacts of marine debris on vertebrate marine life. [Online]. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/tap/marine-debris.html.
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MacLeod, C.D. & A. D'Amico (2006). A review of beaked whale behaviour and ecology in relation to assessing and mitigating impacts of anthropogenic noise. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management. 7(3):211-221.
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This database is designed to provide statutory, biological and ecological information on species and ecological communities, migratory species, marine species, and species and species products subject to international trade and commercial use protected under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (the EPBC Act). It has been compiled from a range of sources including listing advice, recovery plans, published literature and individual experts. While reasonable efforts have been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, no guarantee is given, nor responsibility taken, by the Commonwealth for its accuracy, currency or completeness. The Commonwealth does not accept any responsibility for any loss or damage that may be occasioned directly or indirectly through the use of, or reliance on, the information contained in this database. The information contained in this database does not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth. This database is not intended to be a complete source of information on the matters it deals with. Individuals and organisations should consider all the available information, including that available from other sources, in deciding whether there is a need to make a referral or apply for a permit or exemption under the EPBC Act.
Citation: Department of the Environment (2013). Ziphius cavirostris in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: http://www.environment.gov.au/sprat. Accessed Sun, 22 Dec 2013 16:53:37 +1100.