• Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

  • Photo by William Tan

  • Photo by Rantje Allen

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Cuvier’s beaked whales dive deep off Gorontalo

Cuvier’s beaked whales often swim past locals fishing for Yellowfin tuna. Known for their diving ability, this medium-sized whale loves Gorontalo’s four-kilometer-deep waters.

A Pair of Cuvier’s Beaked Whales Caught on Video

Video of Cuvier’s beaked whales by Miguel’s Diving staff

Since Miguel’s Diving staff are all local fishermen, they will often take their small outrigger canoes into the deep ocean. There, they will handline Yellowfin tuna. One day, Boka noticed two Cuvier’s beaked whales swimming far offshore. He captured their passing using his cell phone. Local fishermen in Gorontalo are familiar with many cetacean species, including this one. The very small dorsal fin is one clue. Another is their brownish coloration.

These whales usually swim in small pods of two to seven individuals. However, males can be solitary. As seen in the video, the body and head emerge from the water while swimming. However, they do little breaching. Before taking a deep dive to feed, they will arch their backs.  

A Living Fossil Gets a Name

French naturalist Georges Cuvier was analyzing a skull fragment for his research. He mistakenly concluded that it was a fossil from an extinct species. That was in 1823. However, several decades after his death, other researchers discovered the skull belonged to a living whale. Moreover, it lives worldwide in temperate, tropical, and subtropical oceans. That is where the Cuvier’s beaked whale gets its name. Its scientific name is Ziphius cavirostris.

Cuvier’s beaked whales
Sketch of Cuvier’s Beaked Whale by NOAA Fisheries

The body color of this whale varies from dark gray to rusty brown. Individual whales can have very different appearances. As the whale ages, its head grows whiter. This is more pronounced in males. Moreover, adult males possess two large, cylindrical teeth. These protrude from the lower jaw. As observable in the video, these whales keep their distance from boats and humans. For anyone lucky enough to see a Cuvier’s beaked whale close up, most noticeable will be the smiling appearance of its jaw. Also, many scars will be visible. Bites from cookie-cutter sharks, lampreys, and deep-squid are the cause of this scarring.

Deep Dive Record Holders

Cuvier’s beaked whales are famous deep divers. For that reason, they normally inhabit waters deeper than one kilometer. The ocean depths of Tomini Bay along Gorontalo’s southern coastline plunge more than four times that depth. These whales dive deep for squid. They will also eat fish and crustaceans. Hunting at such extreme depths requires the use of echolocation to find squid to eat.

The Cuvier’s beaked whale is the deepest diving mammal in the world. Its deepest recorded depth for diving is around three kilometers. In order to dive that deeply, this whale must have incredible breath-holding ability.

In fact, in a 2020 study from Duke University USA analyzed around 3,700 deep dives by Cuvier’s beaked whales. The research team placed satellite tags on 23 whales. The study lasted five years. The median time spent diving for food lasted about one hour. After that, the whale surfaced to breathe. However, one male shattered old records with two extreme dives. One dive lasted almost three hours. His longest dive lasted three hours and forty-two minutes

Cuvier’s beaked whales can live up to sixty years. An adult whale measures between five and seven meters in length.

For your chance to watch passing cetaceans from our dive boat, please make your dive reservations with us.

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