Ziphius cavirostrisCuvier's beaked whale

Geographic Range

These whales have a worldwide distribution in deep waters below the 10 degree isotherm (Minasian et al. 1984, Watson 1981).


-Z. cavirostris- have a worldwide distribution, though they seldom go north of the 10 degree isotherm. They are deep divers and prefer waters beyond the 1000 meter line (Watson 1981).

Physical Description

-Ziphius cavirostris- is a medium-sized whale with an average body length of 6.4 meters. The female is usually a little larger and can be up to 7 meters long. Calves are 2.1 meters at birth. -Z. cavirostris- has a spindle shaped body that is a little stouter than other ziphiids. They have a small head (about 10% of their body length) and a distinct neck. As with all ziphiids, they have two grooves along the throat. They have a stubby beak which is almost indistinct in larger animals and a scooped out hollow behind the blowhole. Adult males have two large teeth on the lower jaw that grow up to 8 centimeters. In the females, the teeth never break through the gums. Some individuals have been found with 15-40 vestigial teeth that never erupted. -Z. cavirostris- have small rounded flippers that fold into depressions or "flipper pockets" on their flanks. They have a relatively tall fin (40 centimeters) that is shaped like a shark fin. There is a small notch in the center of their broad flukes.

The coloration of -Z. cavirostris- varies among individuals. In the Indopacific waters, the whales are often sienna colored, ranging from a dark yellow to a deep brown. Their backs are usually darker than their bellies, but some have a reversed coloration: pale backs with black stomachs. The head is almost always totally white, especially in older males. In the Atlantic waters, -Z. cavirostris- have a grey blue color, often with the same pale head coloration. They have dark spots around the eye. Juveniles are usually lighter than adults (Minasian et al. 1984, Watson 1981).

  • Average mass
    3000 kg
    6607.93 lb
  • Average mass
    2.701e+06 g
    95189.43 oz


Both sexes mature at about 5 meters long. There is thought to be a sex ratio of 67% males to 33% females. Little is known about the reproduction of this species because there does not seem to be a specific breeding season. The whales breed and calves are born all year round. The average lifespan is at least 35 years ( Minasian et al. 1984, Watson 1981).

  • Breeding season
    The whales breed year round
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    365 days



Solitary males are occasionally seen, but usually Ziphius cavirostris travel in pods of around 15 individuals. They may breach, but they are often shy of boats. Their rounded heads can be seen during their blow and they swim at the surface taking breaths for about 20 seconds before they dive. They are deep divers and plunge almost vertically down for 30 minutes or longer. They are often found beached. Some animals have been seen with white oval scars on their belly from lamprey and crustacean (Livoneca ravnaudi) parasites. Adult males often have teeth marks on their beaks and backs (Watson 1981).

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Ziphius cavirostris eats mainly squid and deep water fish. They also eat crabs and starfish (Watson 1981).

  • Animal Foods
  • fish
  • mollusks
  • aquatic crustaceans
  • echinoderms

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

About 20 individuals are taken by Japanese whalers each year. This is a relatively small number and they are not regularly hunted (Watson 1981).

Conservation Status

Though not enough whales are taken to be a threat to the species, deaths may also occur from entanglement in gilnets, float lines from lobster traps, and long lines (


Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Allison Myers (author), Michigan State University.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


specialized for swimming

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


"Species Summary for Ziphius cavirostris" (On-line). Accessed December 4, 1999 at

Minasian, S., K. Balcomb, III, L. Foster. 1984. The World's Whales. U.S.: The Smithsonian Institution.

Watson, L. 1981. Sea Guide to Whales of the World. London: Hutchinson and Co..