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].
State Listing Status
SA: Listed as Rare (National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (South Australia): Rare species: June 2011 list)
Non-statutory Listing Status
IUCN: Listed as Data Deficient (Global Status: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: 2013.1 list)
Scientific name Mesoplodon bowdoini [73]
Family Ziphiidae:Cetacea:Mammalia:Chordata:Animalia
Species author Andrews,1908
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: Mesoplodon bowdoini

Common name: Andrews' Beaked Whale

Andrews' Beaked Whale is a conventionally accepted species, and no subspecies have been described. Analysis of nuclear DNA supports the close relationship between Andrew's Beaked Whale and Hubb's Beaked Whale (M. carlhubbsi) which occurs in the north-east Pacific. In the Southern Hemisphere, Layard's Beaked Whale (M. layardii) is also closely related to both of these species (Dalebout 2002).

The external appearance of Andrews' Beaked Whale is not well known. The skeleton is similar to that of the Northern Hemisphere Hubbs' Beaked Whale (Jefferson et al. 1993). Adult males are all dark, except for the front half of the beak and lower jaw which is white in colour. Female beaks are more off-white in colour. Andrew's Beaked Whales have a small head with a dolphin-like beak. The lower jaw is not arched, but the jawline is elevated towards the back. They have a low melon, an elongated rotund body with proportionally small, low, and blunt-tipped triangular dorsal fins positioned more than two-thirds of the way towards the flukes (Baker 2001). The tail flukes have no median notch and the trailing edge is almost straight. The flippers are rounded.

The most distinctive feature of Andrews' Beaked Whale is a pair of massive teeth in males, situated approximately at mid-beak in slightly raised sockets. They protrude outside the mouth only in males, remaining concealed in the gums of females and young (Leatherwood & Reeves 1983).

Newborn calves measure approximately 2.2 m (Baker 2001). Adult females attain a maximum length of 4.6 m, while males are slightly larger, reaching a maximum of 4.8 m. Maximum weight is about 2.6 tonne. From very few sightings of live animals it appears that this species is often solitary, but may be found in small groups of up to six individuals.

Andrews' Beaked Whale is known from sightings and strandings in Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, and NSW (Rice, 1998). No key localities are known in Australian waters (Bannister et al. 1996).

The current extent of occurrence for Andrews' Beaked Whale is estimated to be greater than 20 000 km² (based on the Australian EEZ (200 nm, between 32° S and 54°30' S and generally deeper than 200 m) (Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.). Increasing ocean temperatures predicted by climate change scenarios could potentially decrease the extent of occurrence, with warmer water extending southwards beyond 32° S.

The area of occupancy of Andrews' Beaked Whale is likely to be greater than 20 000 km² (Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.). Future expansion of high-seas pelagic gillnet fisheries could result in increased incidental catches, potentially reducing local populations and leading to a decrease in area of occupancy.

Andrews' Beaked Whales are considered to occur in one location as deep water is not a barrier to movement in this species.

No distribution fragmentation is anticipated for Andrews' Beaked Whale in Australian oceanic, Antarctic, sub-Antarctic and temperate waters (Peddemors & Harcourt 2006, pers. comm.).

Andrews' Beaked Whale is found in the Southern Indo-Pacific Ocean but is known from only 35 specimens. The majority of records are strandings from temperate waters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans, while two strandings recorded from Tristan da Cunha represent the species in the Atlantic Ocean. Population centres may therefore be far from land. A few Andrews' Beaked Whale strandings from within this predicted range have been reported from Chile and the Falkland Islands, but most have occurred in New Zealand and South Australia (Baker 2001). Andrews' Beaked Whale is therefore considered to have a southern, circumpolar distribution north of the Antarctic convergence, between 32° S and 54°30' S.

It is unlikely that Australian Andrews' Beaked Whales are a distinct population, as no subspecies are currently recognized. As Andrews' 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, Andrews' Beaked Whale is not well surveyed. Their distribution is primarily assumed from incidental sightings, plus beach-cast animals, for all areas.

Although there is no population estimate for Andrews' Beaked Whales, they are not considered abundant as sightings and strandings are rare.

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

Andrews' Beaked Whale appears to prefer deep oceanic temperate waters between 10–20 °C. No information on habitat is available, although these whales are presumed to feed at depth on mid- and deep-water squid and fish (Baker 1990; Bannister et al. 1996). Shipboard surveys of other beaked whales (Mesoplodon spp. and Ziphius cavirostris) from 1991–1998 along the shelf edge and Gulf Stream waters off the north-east United States showed that these species frequent similar shelf-edge habitats (Waring et al. 2001). Beaked whales were present mostly along the colder shelf edge and associated significantly with canyon habitats. However, a more recent survey of the same area found that this previous proposed definition of beaked whale habitat may be too narrow, as suggested that beaked whales may be found from the continental slope to the abyssal plain, in waters ranging from well-mixed to highly stratified (Ferguson et al. 2006). It is likely that such habitats are utilised by beaked whales along much of Australia's extensive coastline, particularly along the more southern shores that support populations of Andrews' Beaked Whale (Ross 2006).

The habitat of Andrews' Beaked Whale is oceanic, but, as for many species of beaked whale, it may also be found close to undersea features such as submarine escarpments and sea mounts where prey are believed to aggregate (Balcomb 1989). In the eastern tropical Pacific, beaked whales were sighted an average of 1000 km offshore, with a range of approximately 40–3750 km. The mean water depth of Mesoplodon beaked whale sightings in this region was just over 3.5 km, with a maximum depth of approximately 5.75 km (Ferguson et al. 2006).

Life history data for Andrews' Beaked Whale are extremely limited. Sexual maturity is thought to be reached at about 4.3 m in females, but is unknown for males. Baker (2001) reported on a 4.2 m long female with a 600 mm long foetus in May, and a second female, 4.38 m long, bearing a 1.55 m long foetus in September. A perinatal (newborn) juvenile, 2.30 m long, stranded in early June, leading Baker (2001) to suggest that calves are born in late summer to early autumn (Bannister et al. 1996).

The life expectancy of the Andrew's Beaked Whale is unknown, although the maximum recorded age for Baird's Beaked Whale (Berardius bairdii) is 84 years, and for all other beaked whales recorded age is between 27 and 39 (Mead 1984, in MacLeod & D'Amico 2006). Natural causes of mortality are poorly understood, but are thought to include predation, disease and effects associated with old age (MacLeod & D'Amico 2006).

The breeding areas and habitat used by Andrew's Beaked Whale are unknown, but are presumed to be oceanic, although the possible inshore movement of Andrews' Beaked Whale in spring and summer may be associated with breeding. Due to the lack of scarring in Andrews' Beaked Whale it is believed that there is no physical competition for partners (Ross 2006).

Little is known about Andrews' Beaked Whale diet, but it is assumed to consist of mid- and deep-water squid and fish (Bannister et al. 1996).

Andrews' Beaked Whales are active predators and are presumed to be strong swimmers capable of deep dives in pursuit of prey, although the mode of capture is not known. Only adult males have erupted teeth, consisting of a single pair of massive teeth near the middle of the lower jaw. It seems unlikely that these teeth are used for prey capture, but rather that prey are seized and disabled between the hard edges of the mandibles and the rostral palate (Ross 2006). The pair of V-shaped throat grooves typical of this family may enable distension of the throat creating a sucking pressure allowing larger whole prey to be swallowed whole (Baker 1990).

Records of Andrews' Beaked whale in Australian waters are from spring and summer, possibly related to a movement into warmer coastal waters for calving and mating (Bannister et al. 1996).

All ten Australian records for Andrews' Beaked Whale occurred between January and June. Only four New Zealand records occur in the same period, while 11 animals stranded in New Zealand between July and December (Baker 2001). This temporal distribution pattern in strandings has led to the suggestion that if onshore movements occur at certain seasons, they occur at different times in the two regions (Baker 2001).

Andrew's Beaked Whale females and young are distinguished from other Mesoplodon species by their heads, which have a small melon and as a result, slant down dramatically from the body. Also, females and young have short, thick beaks. The dorsal fin of this species is rather small for its body size. This fin is found in the middle of the back, and it is triangular and blunt tipped (Reeves et al. 2002). The pair of massive teeth in the males, located in slightly raised sockets approximately at mid-beak just behind the mandibular sypmphysis are also distinctive.

Little is known about the behavior of this whale. Andrew's Beaked Whales are slow, sluggish marine mammals, spending little time at the surface and therefore making individuals difficult to identify or find. Like other beaked whales, they spend much of their time at depth, surface without a visible blow or splash, and are relatively silent when they are within 200 m of the surface (Ferguson et al. 2006). When seen, these whales are generally alone, but if Andrews' Beaked Whale is in a group, it is with no more than six others. (Jefferson et al. 1993; Reeves et al. 2002).

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 temperate Australian waters, but surveys conducted en route to the Antarctic have covered substantial portions of the potential range of Andrews' Beaked Whales. During non-dedicated surveys such as these, a minimum requirement should be 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.

The current threats to Andrew's Beaked Whales include possible entanglement in drift nets and other nets set, lost or discarded in international waters.

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 Cuviers 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. 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 1–16 kHz (MacLeod & D'Amico 2006).

Other potential threats may include competition from expanding commercial fisheries in higher latitudes, particularly on pelagic squids in temperate waters, and from pollution leading to accumulation of toxic substances in body tissues, although these latter are likely to be low (Bannister et al. 1996; Reeves et al. 2003; Ross 2006).
Although little is known about reproduction in beaked whales, it is likely that Andrews' 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 Andrews' Beaked Whale:

  • Determine the distribution and monitor abundance of Andrews' 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 southern waters.
  • Obtain information on Andrews' 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 Andrews' 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.
  • Ensure adequate protection of species and resources in Australian and nearby waters.

Disentanglement workshops have been initiated to protect cetaceans caught in fishing nets, and may be particularly relevant for offshore fishers.

Current projects initiated to address these threats include a requirement to report all incidental catches made within the Australian EEZ (Bannister et al. 1996).

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.

Baker, A. (2001). Status, relationships, and distribution of Mesoplodon bowdoini Andrews, 1908 (Cetacea: Ziphiidae). Marine Mammal Science. 17(3):473-493.

Balcomb, K.C. (1989). Baird's Beaked Whale Berardius bairdii Stejnegeri, 1833: Arnoux's Beaked Whale Berardius arnuxii Duvernoy, 1851. In: Ridgway, S.H. & R. Harrison, eds. Handbook of Marine Mammals Vol. 4: River Dolphins and the Larger Toothed Whales. Page(s) 261-288.

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

Carwardine, M. (1995). Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises. Page(s) 257 pp. London, UK: Dorling Kindersley.

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.

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.

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].

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

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.

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

Reeves, R., Stewart, B., Clapham, P. & Powell, J., eds. (2002). Sea Mammals of the World. London: A & C Black.

Reeves, R.R., B.D. Smith, E.A.Crespo, & G. Notarbartolo di Sciara, eds. (2003). Dolphins, Whales and Porpoises: 2002-2010 Conservation Action Plan for the World's Cetaceans. Switzerland and Cambridge: IUCN/SSC Cetacean Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland.

Rice, D.W. (1998). Marine mammals of the world. Systematics and distribution. Special publication number 4. Kansas: Society for Marine Mammalogy.

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:

Waring, G.T., J.M. Quintal & S.L. Swartz (2001). U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico marine mammal stock assessments - 2001. NOAA Technical Memorandum. NMFS-NE168.

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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). Mesoplodon bowdoini in Species Profile and Threats Database, Department of the Environment, Canberra. Available from: Accessed Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:11:21 +1000.