Shepherd's beaked whale

Shepherd's beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi), also commonly called Tasman's beaked whale or simply the Tasman whale, is a cetacean of the family Ziphidae. The whale has not been studied extensively. Only four confirmed at sea sightings have been made and 42 strandings recorded (as of 2006). It was first known to science in 1937, being named by W. R. B. Oliver after George Shepherd, curator of the Wanganui Museum, who collected the type specimen near Ōhawe on the south Taranaki coast, on the North Island of New Zealand, in 1933.

Shepherd's beaked whale
  • Size

    Adults can reach lengths of 6 metres (20 ft) to 7.1 metres (23 ft) and weigh about 2.32 to 3.48 tons.
    At birth they may be about 3 metres (9.8 ft) long. They are robust and large-bodied for beaked whales, having a bluff melon and a long, dolphin-like beak. It is the only species of ziphiid with a full set of functional teeth (17 to 27 pairs in both the upper and lower jaws).

  • Feeding

    Dietary information is available from stomach contents analyses of stranded beaked whales and from whaling operations. Their preferred diet is primarily deep-water squid, but also benthic and benthopelagic fish and some crustaceans, mostly taken near the sea floor.
    In a recent study, gouge marks in the seafloor were interpreted to be a result of feeding activities by beaked whales.

  • Life History

    Very little is known about the life histories of beaked whales.There are currently no data available on their reproductive rates.

  • Behavior

    Four of the confirmed sightings of this species involved three to six individuals (one group included a calf) in waters from 350 metres (1,150 ft) to 3,600 metres (11,800 ft) deep, while a 2012 sighting involved as many as ten to twelve individuals. The animals surfaced several times, giving a "small, bushy" blow (only visible from the aerial sightings), before arching to dive. Some were observed to come to the surface at a steep angle like many other ziphiids, raising their head and beaks out of the water.