Mesoplodon europaeus 

Scope: Europe
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Ziphiidae

Scientific Name: Mesoplodon europaeus (Gervais, 1855)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Gervais' Beaked Whale, Gulf Stream Beaked Whale
French Mésoplodon De Gervais
Spanish Ballena De Pico De Gervais, Ballena De Pico De Gervais, Zifio De Gervais, Zifio De Gervais
Mesoplodon gervaisi (Deslongchamps, 1866)

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient (Regional assessment) ver 3.1
Year Published: 2007
Date Assessed: 2007-01-26
Needs updating
Assessor(s): Species account by IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group; regional assessment by European Mammal Assessment team
Reviewer(s): Philip Hammond
The range of this species does not qualify as threatened under criterion B. It cannot be ruled out that the regional population of this species is small enough to warrant listing under criteria C-D. Population trend or abundance data for this species are unavailable. As with other beaked whales, threats that could cause widespread declines include high levels of anthropogenic sound, especially military sonar and seismic surveys, and bycatch.

The combination of possible declines driven by vulnerability to high-level anthropogenic sound sources and bycatch is believed sufficient that a 30% reduction over three generations could not be ruled out. Therefore, the species is currently considered to be Data Deficient.

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Although sometimes depicted as a North Atlantic endemic, this species is probably continuously distributed in deep waters across the tropical and temperate Atlantic Ocean, both north and south of the equator (Mead 1989, MacLeod et al. 2006). Most records are from the east and Gulf coasts of North America, from New York to Texas, but Gervais' beaked whales are also known from several of the Caribbean islands. This is the most commonly-stranded beaked whale in the southeastern United States. In the eastern Atlantic, they are known from Ireland to Guinea-Bissau in West Africa. There is only one record of this species entering the Mediterranean, and it is considered a vagrant there (Podesta et al. 2005).
Countries occurrence:
France; Ireland; Spain (Canary Is.); United Kingdom
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – northwest
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:No specific estimates of abundance exist; however estimates indicate that 106 (CV=41%) mesoplodonts occur in the northern Gulf of Mexico, which are considered to be either M. densirostris or M. europaeus (Waring et al. 2006). Based on the frequency with which they strand, they are presumed to be relatively common in waters along the east coast of North America. Abundance is often underestimated using visual survey methods because they dive for long periods and are inconspicuous when they surface (Barlow 1999).
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Gervais' beaked whales have only been reliably identified alive in the wild on a few occasions (Pitman 2002), mostly in the eastern Atlantic, although many Mesoplodon sightings in the Gulf of Mexico are thought to have been of this species. Around the Canary Islands, they sometimes lift their heads out of the water upon surfacing. Live-stranded individuals have been held in captivity for short periods of time.

Like other members of the genus, the species prefers deep waters based on the presence of prey from such habitats in stomach contents and a lack of sightings near shore (Mead 1989). Strandings and the few possible sightings suggest that the species prefers tropical and subtropical waters (MacLeod et al. 2006).

Like other members of the genus, Gervais’ beaked whales are known to feed primarily on squid, although some fish may be taken as well (Norman and Mead 2001). Growth layer group counts in the teeth of one specimen suggest they live to at least 48 years of age (Mead 1984).

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Specimens of Gervais’ beaked whale have been entangled and killed in pound nets off New Jersey. Like other beaked whales, this species is highly sensitive to disturbance and mortality from loud anthropogenic sounds such as naval sonar exercises (Cox et al. 2006). Several atypical mass strandings of beaked whales, including Gervais' beaked whales, were associated with naval activities: mid to late 1980s on the Canary Islands (Waring et al. 2006), in March 2000 on the Bahamas (Rowles et al. 2000, Anonymous 2001) and again in September 2002 during a naval NATO maneuver involving low frequency sonar around the Canaries (Vidal pers. comm.).

Finally, all beaked whales seem to be susceptible to the ingestion of plastic bags, which are of widespread occurrence at sea and have been linked to detrimental health effects in several cetacean species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: No specific conservation measures are known for this species.

Citation: Species account by IUCN SSC Cetacean Specialist Group; regional assessment by European Mammal Assessment team. 2007. Mesoplodon europaeus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2007: e.T13245A3427412. . Downloaded on 22 September 2018.
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