Mesoplodon grayi

von Haast, 1876 - Gray's beaked whale

Distinctive Characteristics

Gray's beaked whales have small heads, with extremely long, narrow beaks.
Although mostly grey, white patches are found in the genital region and the beak becomes white in adults (Gray's beaked whales observed in the eastern tropical Pacific have had white lower jaws and dark upper jaws, separated by a straight mouthline).

There are 2 small, triangular teeth set in the middle of the lower jaw, which erupt only in bulls, and 17 to 22 pairs of small teeth in the upper jaw.

Can be confused with

The long white beak (often stuck up out of the water as the animal surfaces) and straight mouthline may allow Gray's beaked whales to be distinguished from other species of Mesoplodon, if a good look is obtained.


Maximum known sizes are 5.6 m for both sexes. These animals are known to reach weights of at least 1100 kg. Length at birth is probably between 2 and 2.5 m.

Geographical Distribution

This is primarily a Southern Hemisphere cool temperate species, which is possibly circum-antarctic in occurrence. There are many records from New Zealand and Australia, and others from South Africa, Argentina, Chile, and Peru. This species apparently wanders into the Northern Hemisphere on occasion, as evidenced by a few sightings in the eastern tropical Pacific and a stranding in the Netherlands.

Biology and Behaviour

Very little is known of the biology of this species. Gray's beaked whales are seen mostly as singles or pairs; however, there is one record of a mass stranding of 28 of these whales. Gray's beaked whales generally raise their long snouts out of the water when surfacing.



IUCN Status

Insufficiently known.