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Reyes, Mead, & Van Waerebeek, 1991 - Pygmy beaked whale

Distinctive Characteristics

The pygmy beaked whale is the most recently described member of the genus, and appears to be the smallest of the species of Mesoplodon. They tend to be dark grey above and lighter below, apparently with little scarring. They have small, triangular, wide-based dorsal fins that are shaped like those of harbour porpoises.

The most distinctive characteristic is the teeth, which are extremely small and egg-shaped in cross-section (although generally they are not visible in sightings at sea).

Can be confused with

The small triangular dorsal fin is different from that of most other species of Mesoplodon, but using this character alone, it would be very difficult to dismiss the possibility of other species in sightings at sea.

Size

This is the smallest known species of Mesoplodon; maximum known length is 3.7 m, apparently with males larger than females. At birth, these animals are about 1.6 m long.

Geographical Distribution

The pygmy beaked whale is known only from 10 specimens and a few possible sightings off Peru, all south of 8°S and in the eastern tropical Pacific. Recently, there have been 2 strandings of pygmy beaked whales near La Paz, Baja California, Mexico.

Biology and Behaviour

The diet consists of small mid-water fishes, oceanic squid, and shrimps. Groups of 2 or 3 animals have been observed.

Exploitation

Pygmy beaked whales are taken in the driftnet fishery for sharks off the coast of Peru.

IUCN Status

Insufficiently known.

Pygmy beaked whale (Mesoplodon peruvianus)