Hector's beaked whale - Mesoplodon hectori

Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Scientific Name Mesoplodon hectori
Author (Gray, 1871)
Taxonomic Rank Species
Taxonomic # 180507
Common Names English: Hector's Beaked Whale
Current Standing valid
Taxonomic Parents Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Subphylum: Vertebrata
      Class: Mammalia
        Subclass: Theria
          Infraclass: Eutheria
            Order: Cetacea
              Suborder: Odontoceti
                Family: Hyperoodontidae
                  Genus: Mesoplodon
Taxonomic Children
Synonyms (since 1950)

Taxonomic data is courtesy of the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS)
See ITIS metadata in XML

Physical Description / Field Identification

Body color of Hector’s beaked whales appears to be dark gray-brown above and light gray below, with scratches often covering the body. In at least some individuals, there is a dark stripe surrounding the eye and running forward.

The single pair of flattened, triangular teeth is moderately small and located near the tip of the lower jaw; they erupt only in bulls.

Specimens of up to 4.4 m have been measured; females are probably somewhat larger than males. Newborns presumably are about 2 m.

Can be Confused With

The placement of the flattened teeth of bulls at the tip of the lower jaw may allow them to be distinguished from other species of Mesoplodon when the head is seen well.


Hector’s beaked whale is primarily a Southern Hemisphere cool temperate species. The records are from southern South America, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, and the range may be circumpolar.

Ecology and Behavior

Almost nothing is known of the biology of the Hector’s beaked whale. A single individual observed nearshore in western Australia breached several times near a research vessel.

Feeding and Prey

Hector’s beaked whales are known to feed on squid, like most other beaked whales.

Threats and Status

There are no known threats; Hector’s beaked whales are currently ‘Data Deficient’ (IUCN) and ‘Not Listed’ (ESA).



Dalebout, M.L. 2002. Species identity, genetic diversity, and molecular systematic relationships among the Ziphiidae (beaked whales). Ph.D. dissertation, University of Auckland, New Zealand.

Gales, N.J., M.L. Dalebout and J.L. Bannister. 2002. Genetic identification and biological observation of two free-swimming beaked whales Hector’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon hectori, Gray 1871), and Gray’s beaked whale (Mesoplodon grayi, von Haast, 1876). Marine Mammal Science 18:544-551.

Mead, J.G. 1989. Beaked whales of the genus Mesoplodon. pp. 349-430 in S.H. Ridgway and R. Harrison, eds. Handbook of marine mammals, Vol. 4: River dolphins and the larger toothed whales. Academic Press.

Pitman, R.L. 2002. Mesoplodont whales Mesoplodon spp. pp. 738-742 in W.F. Perrin, B. Würsig and J.G.M. Thewissen, eds. Encyclopedia of marine mammals. Academic Press.

ITIS TSN180507
Status - ESA, U.S. FWS
Status - Red List, IUCN
    DD (Global)
#records (spatial)1
#records (non-spatial)0
Latitude-32.93 - -32.93
Longitude134.14 - 134.14
See metadata in static HTML