Southern bottlenose whale - Hyperoodon planifrons

Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Scientific Name Hyperoodon planifrons
Author Flower, 1882
Taxonomic Rank Species
Taxonomic # 180505
Common Names English: southern bottle-nosed whale
English: Southern Bottlenose Whale
Spanish: Ballena-picuda frente plana
Current Standing valid
Taxonomic Parents Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Subphylum: Vertebrata
      Class: Mammalia
        Subclass: Theria
          Infraclass: Eutheria
            Order: Cetacea
              Suborder: Odontoceti
                Family: Hyperoodontidae
                  Genus: Hyperoodon
Taxonomic Children
Synonyms (since 1950)

Taxonomic data is courtesy of the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)
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Physical Description / Field Identification

This species resembles the northern bottlenose whale, with a bulbous melon (especially in adult males), tube-like beak, throat grooves, small dorsal fin, small blunt flippers, and flukes with no notch (or only a shallow one).

These animals are light brown to dull yellow in color. The belly and probably much of the head are lighter. Large animals can be covered with light splotches, scratches, and scars. The color pattern of young calves is unknown.

There is a single pair of conical teeth at the tip of the lower jaw, which erupts only in adult males, and is not visible outside the closed mouth. There may be a smaller second pair, and several sets of vestigial teeth, as well.

Maximum known sizes are 7.8 m for females and about 7.2 m for males. If females are, in fact, larger than males, this species differs from its northern counterpart. However, the disparity is more likely a result of the small sample size of measured animals. Length at birth appears to be around 2 m.

Can be Confused With

Southern bottlenose whales can be distinguished from Arnoux’s beaked whales by differences in dorsal fin and head shape, and from Cuvier's beaked whales and various mesoplodonts primarily by head shape and body patterning. They are most likely to be confused with Longman’s beaked whale, and detailed views of the animals may be needed to distinguish the species.


Southern bottlenose whales are thought to have a circumpolar distribution in the Southern Hemisphere, south of 30°S. They apparently migrate, and are found in Antarctic waters during the summer, where they tend to occur within about 120 km of the ice edge. Like other beaked whales, these are deep-water oceanic animals.

Ecology and Behavior

Pods of less than 10 are most common, but groups of up to 25 have been seen. They are deep divers that can remain underwater for over an hour.

There is essentially nothing known of the reproductive biology of this species.

Feeding and Prey

Southern bottlenose whales are thought to take primarily squid, but probably also eat fish and possibly some crustaceans.

Threats and Status

No significant exploitation of southern bottlenose whales is known. Currently, they are listed as ‘Lower Risk/Conservation Dependent (IUCN)’ and ‘Not Listed’ (ESA).



Dixon, J.M., L. Frigo and R.L.C. Moyle. 1994. New information on the southern bottlenose whale, Hyperoodon planifrons (Cetacea Ziphiidae), from a recent stranding in Victoria, Australia. Australian Mammalogy 17:85-95.

Gowans, S. 2002. Bottlenose whales Hyperoodon ampullatus and H. planifrons. pp. 128-129 in W.F. Perrin, B. Würsig and J.G.M. Thewissen, eds. Encyclopedia of marine mammals. Academic Press.

Mead, J.G. 1989. Bottlenose whales Hyperoodon ampullatus (Forster, 1770) and Hyperoodon planifrons Flower, 1882. pp. 321-348 in S.H. Ridgway and R. Harrison, eds. Handbook of marine mammals, Vol. 4: River dolphins and the larger toothed whales. Academic Press.

ITIS TSN180505
Status - ESA, U.S. FWS
Status - Red List, IUCN
    LC (Global)
#records (spatial)74
#records (non-spatial)0
Year1911 - 2018
Latitude-69.85 - -9.96
Longitude-166.28 - 174.55
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