Species Profile and Threats Database

For information to assist proponents in referral, environmental assessments and compliance issues, refer to the Policy Statements and Guidelines (where available), the Conservation Advice (where available) or the Listing Advice (where available).
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
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].
Information Sheets Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching (Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2005e) [Information Sheet].
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Data Deficient (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
NGO: Listed as Data Deficient (The action plan for Australian mammals 2012)
Scientific name Indopacetus pacificus [72]
Family Ziphiidae:Cetacea:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author (Longman,1926)
Infraspecies author  
Distribution map Species Distribution Map

This is an indicative distribution map of the present distribution of the species based on best available knowledge. See map caveat for more information.

Illustrations Google Images

Scientific name: Indopacetus pacificus

Common name: Longman's Beaked Whale

Other names: Tropical Bottlenose Whale, Indo-Pacific Beaked Whale

Longman's Beaked Whale is placed in a different genus (Indopacteus) to the other beaked whales based on differences in the structure of it's skeleton (osteological differences). These differences have been reported to be consistently diagnostic (Moore 1968), and validate the continued use of Indopacetus for Longman's Beaked Whale (Dalebout et al. 2003). In addition, the most recent genetic research supports the assertion that Indopacteus pacificus is a distinct and well-defined species (Dalebout 2002; Dalebout et al. 2003).

Longman's Beaked Whales have many of the features standard to beaked whales. They have a chunky build and falcate (sickle-shaped), pointed dorsal fin (Jefferson et al. 1993). The large rounded melon drops perpendicularly to the rostrum (beak), or slightly overhangs the rostrum in some individuals (Ballance & Pittman 1998; Dalebout et al. 2003). The rostrum is short to medium in length. Many, but not all, individuals have a distinctive cream-coloured melon. The body is dark to greyish-brown dorsally, with pale sides and belly (Ballance & Pittman 1998; Dalebout et al. 2003). The dark colour of the dorsal surface extends down to cover the eye, and then extends from behind the eye patch in a band down to the flipper (Dalebout et al. 2003). Although both sexes have a single pair of teeth set close to the tip of the jaw, they appear only to erupt in males (Dalebout et al. 2003).

Almost nothing is known of the natural history of Longman's Beaked Whale, as the species is known from only six specimens. The length at birth is probably about 2.9 m, based on a freshly stranded male bearing well-defined birth creases, being perhaps only a few weeks old (Dalebout et al. 2003; Ross 1984). Maximum length of adult Longman's Beaked Whale, estimated from skull length, is approximately 7.5 m. Longman's Beaked whale shares the status of being one of the least known of all living cetaceans (Baker 1990; Klinowska 1991; Leatherwood & Reeves 1983).

In the western tropical Indian Ocean individuals of Longman's Beaked Whale stay close together in schools, diving and surfacing synchronously, even when group size is large (recorded group sizes were two, eight & 45 individuals) (Pittman 2002; Pittman et al. 1999).

In Australia, Longman's Beaked Whale is known from only one specimen stranded at Mackay, Queensland, in 1882 (Longman 1926). Although this is the holotype specimen (i.e. first example of the species) no other records exist for Australia. It is likely that Longman's Beaked Whale is present throughout the warmer waters off Australia north of 25° S, but no key localities are known (Bannister et al. 1996).

The current extent of occurrence for Longman's Beaked Whale is estimated to be greater than 20 000 km² (based on the Australian Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) (200 nm, north of 25° 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 25° S.

The area of occupancy of Longman's Beaked Whale cannot be calculated due to the sparsity of records for Australia. However, it 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.

Longman's Beaked Whales are considered to occur in one location, without distribution fragmentation, as deep water is not a barrier to movement, and there are no known unsurpassable pelagic boundaries in the Australian tropical oceanic region.

No distribution fragmentation is anticipated for Longman's Beaked Whale in Australian tropical oceanic waters.

Although Longman's Beaked Whale is known from only six specimens worldwide, its range extends from the western reaches of the tropical Pacific Ocean (21°10' S, 149°10' E) into the western, northern and southern latitudes of the tropical Indian Ocean (3°26' N, 73°26' E to 29°39' S, 31°36' E) (Dalebout et al. 2003). The distribution of Longman's Beaked Whale therefore extends from tropical north-eastern Africa (the Arabian Sea - Mörzer Bruyns 1971) through Malaysia and Indonesia across the Pacific Ocean to the west coast of northern South America and Baja California (Isla da Guadalupe, Mexico: Gallo-Reynoso & Figueroa-Carranza 1995), and is clearly linked to the warmer regions of the Pacific and Indian Oceans (Pitman et al. 1999).

No estimates of population size exist. For many years the existence of this whale was known only from two skulls found on beaches in the South Pacific (Queensland) and western Indian Ocean (Somalia). However, a type of 'Bottlenose Whale' seen and photographed repeatedly in tropical waters of the Pacific and Indian oceans appears also to be this species (Pittman et al. 1999; Pittman 2002), suggesting that it is fairly widespread and may be more abundant than previously thought.

There are no estimates of Longman's Beaked Whale population size, either globally or for Australia, so the proportion of the global population in Australian waters is unknown. It is unlikely that Australian Longman's Beaked Whales are a distinct population, as no subspecies are currently recognized. As Longman's Beaked Whale is a deep water species primarily living off the continental shelf, incidental bycatch of animals in neighbouring countries and/or international waters may affect the Australian population.

World-wide, Longman's Beaked Whale is not well surveyed. Their distribution is primarily assumed from beach-cast animals plus irregular dedicated cetacean surveys and incidental sightings.

The population size of Longman's Beaked Whale is not known. Originally considered extremely rare, Longman's Beaked Whales have been seen in tropical oceans during recent cetacean surveys and may be more abundant than previously thought (Pitman 2002). However, sightings and strandings are still rare, especially off Australia.

All cetaceans are protected within The Australian Whale Sanctuary under the EPBC Act 1999. The Sanctuary includes all Commonwealth waters from the three nautical mile state waters limit out to the boundary of the Exclusive Economic Zone (i.e. out to 200 nm and further in some places). Longman's Beaked Whales are also subject to International Whaling Commission (IWC) regulations and protected within the Indian Ocean Sanctuary and Southern Ocean Sanctuary.

Longman's Beaked Whales are oceanic, restricted primarily to tropical deep oceanic waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans (Bannister et al. 1996; Dalebout et al. 2003; Leatherwood & Reeves 1983; Pitman 2002), in water temperatures of between 21°–31 °C. Seventy-four percent of Longman's Beaked Whale sightings were made in waters warmer than 26 °C (Pitman et al. 1999).

No data have been recorded for any breeding parameters of Longman's Beaked Whale (Ross 2006). There are no known reproductive behaviours that may make Longman's Beaked Whale particularly vulnerable to any specific threatening process, although the suspected calving interval of three years leads to a slow reproductive capacity.

Little is known about the diet of Longman's Beaked Whale. By analogy with other beaked whales, Longman's Beaked Whales are likely to feed on deep-water squid and/or fish.

A powerful and active predator, Longman's Beaked Whale is presumed to be able to conduct deep dives in pursuit of prey, but the mode of capture is not known.

The brown upper-body colouration, high white sides separated from the pale face and melon area by a dark band extending down from just behind the blowhole toward the flipper, and the white 'ear' spot embedded within this dark band are characteristic features of this species (Dalebout et al. 2003; Pittman et al. 1999). Additionally, the pointed falcate dorsal fin, oversized melon with a distinct beak and the visible blow should enable them to be distinguished from other beaked whales in tropical waters.

Longman's Beaked Whales are difficult to detect. Like other beaked whales, they tend to spend little time at the surface, breathing only a few times before submerging for extensive periods. Whilst at the surface they are slow moving and inconspicuous, particularly as they don't 'blow'.

Recommended methods
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. travelling, 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 are almost no dedicated cetacean surveys conducted in Australian waters, especially for the northern waters considered to be the range of Longman's Beaked Whales. Surveys associated with petro-chemical exploration may be used as platforms of opportunity to record cetacean distribution and abundance. During such 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, and basic biological information from dead animals should be obtained (Peddemores 2006, pers. comm.).

There are no known threats that have affected Longman's Beaked Whale in the past. The current threats include the possibility of entanglement in drift nets and other nets set, lost or discarded in international waters. Further potential threats may include competition from expanding commercial fisheries in low latitudes, and from pollution leading to accumulation of toxic substances in body tissues (Bannister et al. 1996; Ross 2006).

In addition, there have recently 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, 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. 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). It is not known to what extent anthropogenic noise is likely to affect Longman's Beaked Whale, but it should be considered a potential threat.
Although little is known about reproduction in beaked whales, it is likely that Longman's Beaked Whale have a low reproductive rate, producing one offspring every three to four years. This means that population recovery is a slow process.

Bannister and colleagues (1996) and Ross (2006) recommended the following actions be taken to better understand the threats to Longman's Beaked Whale:

  • Determine the distribution and monitor abundance of Longman's Beaked Whale in Australian waters to assess the possible impact of threats, particularly the effect of direct and indirect fishing activities. This should be done via a sighting program to monitor numbers, particularly in northern waters.
  • Obtain information on Longman'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 and pollutant levels) from incidentally-caught and stranded Longman'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. Disentanglement workshops have also been recommended, particularly for offshore fishers, and suitable action plans developed.

The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans (Bannister et al. 1996) and the Review of the Conservation Status of Australia's Smaller Whales and Dolphins (Ross 2006) provide brief biological overviews and management recommendations of this species. In addition, Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales (DEW 2007h), and Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching (DEH 2005c) have been published.

No threats data available.

Baker, A. (1990). Whales and Dolphins of Australia and New Zealand: An Identification Guide. Page(s) 133 pp. Wellington, New Zealand: Victoria University Press.

Ballance, L.T. & R.L. Pitman (1998). Cetaceans of the western tropical Indian Ocean: Distribution, relative abundance, and comparisons with cetacean communities of two other tropical ecosystems. Marine Mammal Science. 14(3):429-459.

Bannister, J.L., C.M. Kemper & R.M. Warneke (1996). The Action Plan for Australian Cetaceans. [Online]. Canberra: Australian Nature Conservation Agency. Available from:

Dalebout, M.L. (2002). Species identity, genetic diversity and molecular systematic relationships among the Ziphiidae (beaked whales). Ph.D. Thesis. University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Dalebout, M.L., G.J.B. Ross, S.C. Baker, R.C. Anderson, P.B. Best, V.G. Cockcroft, H.L. Hinz, V.M. Peddemors & R.L. Pitman (2003). Appearance, distribution and genetic distinctiveness of Longman's beaked whale, Indopacetus pacificus. Marine Mammal Science. 19(3):421-461.

Department of the Environment and Heritage (2005e). Australian National Guidelines for Whale and Dolphin Watching. [Online]. Available from:

Department of the Environment and Water Resources (DEW) (2007h). Industry Guidelines on the Interaction between offshore seismic exploration and whales. [Online]. Available from:

Frantzis, A. (1998). Does acoustic testing strand whales?. Nature. 392:29.

Gallo-Reynoso, J.P. & A.L. Figueroa-Carranza (1995). Occurrence of bottlenose whales in the waters of Isla Guadalupe, Mexico. Marine Mammal Science. 11:573-575.

Jefferson, T.A., S. Leatherwood & M.A. Webber (1993). FAO species identification guide. Marine Mammals of the World. [Online]. Rome: United Nations Environment Programme, Food and Agricultural Organization. Available from: [Accessed: 15-Aug-2007].

Klinowska, M. (1991). Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales of the World: The IUCN Red Data Book. IUCN, Gland and Cambridge.

Leatherwood, S. & R.R. Reeves (1983). The Sierra Club Handbook of Whales and Dolphins. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books.

Longman, H.A. (1926). New records of Cetacea, with a list of Queensland species. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum. 8:266-278.

Mörzer Bruyns, W.F.J. (1971). Field Guide of Whales and Dolphins. Mees, Amsterdam.

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.

Moore, J.C. (1968). Relationships among the living genera of beaked whales, with classification, diagnoses, and keys. Fieldiana Zoology. 53:206-298.

Peddemors, V.M. (2006). Personal Communications. Sydney: Graduate School of the Environment, Macquarie University.

Peddemors, V.M. & R. Harcourt (2006). Personal Communication. Sydney: Graduate School of the Environment, Macquarie University.

Pitman, R.L. (2002). Indo-Pacific beaked whale Indopacetus pacificu. In: Perrin W.F., B. Wursig & J.G.M. Thewissen, eds. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego, California.

Pitman, R.L., D.M. Palacios, P.L.R Brennan, B.J. Brennan, K.C. Balcomb & T. Miyashita (1999). Sightings and possible identity of a bottlenose whale in the tropical Indopacific: Indopacetus pacificus?. Marine Mammal Science. 15:531-549.

Ross, G.J.B. (1984). The smaller cetaceans of the south-east coast of southern Africa. Annals of the Cape Provincial Museums (Natural History). 15:173-411.

Ross, G.J.B. (2006). Review of the Conservation Status of Australia's Smaller Whales and Dolphins. Page(s) 124. [Online]. Report to the Australian Department of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra. Available from:

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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 (2014). Indopacetus pacificus in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Thu, 2 Oct 2014 07:37:59 +1000.