Mesoplodon peruvianus


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Mesoplodon peruvianus
Species Authority: Reyes, Mead & Van Waerebeek, 1991
Common Name/s:
English Pygmy Beaked Whale, Lesser Beaked Whale, Peruvian Beaked Whale
French Mésoplodon Pygmée
Taxonomic Notes: The Pygmy Beaked Whale or Lesser Beaked Whale was only described as a new species in 1991 (Reyes et al. 1991). Whales now thought to be of this species had previously been sighted in the eastern tropical Pacific (Pitman et al. 1987, Pitman and Lynn 2001). Since it was unknown to what species they belonged, they were listed in some previous publications as “Mesoplodon sp. A.” (Pitman 2002).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L.
Reviewer/s: Hammond, P.S. & Perrin, W.F. (Cetacean Red List Authority)
There is almost no information on abundance and no information on trends in global abundance for this species. As a relatively uncommon species it is potentially vulnerable to low-level threats and a 30% global reduction over three generations cannot be ruled out (criterion A).
1996 Data Deficient
1994 Insufficiently Known (Groombridge 1994)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:The pygmy beaked whale is known from a handful of specimens and several dozen sighting from the eastern tropical/warm temperate Pacific, including the Gulf of California (Urban-Ramirez and Aurioles-Gamboa. 1992, MacLeod et al. 2006). These records extend from about 30°S to 28°N, and suggest that the species may be an eastern Pacific endemic. However, there is a single record of a stranding in New Zealand (Baker and Van Helden 1999), possibly suggesting that this species may have a more extensive distribution than previously believed. Alternatively, the New Zealand record may be an extralimital wandering.
Colombia; Costa Rica; Ecuador; El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panama; Peru
New Zealand (South Is.)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Pacific – southeast
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: There are no estimates of global abundance for this species. Ferguson and Barlow (1999) estimate a total abundance of 32,678 beaked whales in the genus Mesoplodon in the eastern Pacific (corrected for missed animals). The majority of these were Mesoplodon peruvianus and Mesoplodon densirostris (Pitman and Lynn 2001).
Population Trend: Unknown

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Like other members of the genus, it occurs in deep waters beyond the continental shelf.

The diet consists of small mid-water fishes, oceanic squids, and shrimps. Presumably these are taken at moderate to great depths.
Systems: Marine

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Some pygmy beaked whales are caught incidentally in drift gillnets for sharks off Peru (Reyes et al. 1991).. Entanglement in fishing gear, especially gillnets in deep water (e.g., for billfish and tuna), is probably the most significant threat.

There is no information on global abundance or trends in abundance for this species. It is not believed to be uncommon but it is potentially vulnerable to low-level threats and a 30% global reduction over three generations cannot be ruled out

In recent years, there has been increasing concern that loud underwater sounds, such as active sonar and seismic operations, may be harmful to beaked whales (Malakoff 2002). The use of active sonar from military vessels has been implicated in mass strandings of a number of beaked whales including several Mesoplodon species and Indopacetus pacificus (Balcomb and Claridge 2001, Jepson et al. 2003, Cox et al. 2006, Wang and Yang 2006). Sound impacts may be important for all ziphiid species.

Pygmy beaked whales have been recorded ingesting plastic items, which may eventually lead to death (e.g. Scott et al. 2001).

Predicted impacts of global climate change on the marine environment may affect this species of whale, although the nature of impacts is unclear (Learmonth et al. 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is listed in Appendix II of CITES. Research is needed to determine the impacts of potential threatening processes on this species.

Bibliography [top]

Baker, A. N. and Van Helden, A. L. 1999. New records of beaked whales, genus Mesoplodon, from New Zealand (Cetacea: Ziphiidae). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 29: 235-244.

Balcomb, K. C. and Claridge, D. E. 2001. A mass stranding of cetaceans caused by naval sonar in the Bahamas. Bahamas Journal of Science 8(2): 2-12.

Barlow, J. 1999. Trackline detection probability for long-diving whales. In: G. W. Garner, S. C. Amstrup, J. L. Laake, B. J. F. Manley, L. L. McDonald and D. G. Robertson (eds), Marine mammal survey and assessment methods, pp. 209-221. Balkema Press, Netherlands.

Cox, T. M., Ragen, T. J., Read, A. J., Vos, E., Baird, R. W., Balcomb, K., Barlow, J., Caldwell, J., Cranford, T., Crum, L., D'Amico, A., D'Spain, A., Fernández, J., Finneran, J., Gentry, R., Gerth, W., Gulland, F., Hildebrand, J., Houser, D., Hullar, T., Jepson, P. D., Ketten, D., Macleod, C. D., Miller, P., Moore, S., Mountain, D., Palka, D., Ponganis, P., Rommel, S., Rowles, T., Taylor, B., Tyack, P., Wartzok, D., Gisiner, R., Mead, J. and Benner, L. 2006. Understanding the impacts of anthropogenic sound on beaked whales. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 7(3): 177-187.

Ferguson, M. C. and Barlow, J. 2001. Spatial distribution and density of cetaceans in the eastern Pacific Ocean based on summer/fall research vessel surveys in 1986-96. Southwest Fisheries Science Center Adminstrative Report LJ-01-04: 61 pp.

Fernández, A., Edwards, J. F., Rodriguez, F., Espinosa, A., De Los Monteros, Herraez, P., Castro, P., Jaber, J. R., Martin, V. and Arebelo, M. 2005. "Gas and fat embolic syndrome" involving a mass stranding of beaked whales (family Ziphiidae) exposed to anthropogenic sonar signals. Veterinary Pathology 42: 446-457.

Gomercic, H., Gomercic, M. D., Gomericic, T., Lucic, H., Dalebout, M., Galov, A., Skrtic, D., Curkovic, S., Vukovic, S. and Huber, D. 2006. Biological aspects of Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) recorded in the Croatian part of the Adriatic Sea. European Journal of Wildlife Research 52(3): 182-187.

Jepson, P. D., Arebelo, M., Deaville, R., Patterson, I. A. P., Castro, P., Baker, J. R., Degollada, E., Ross, H. M., Herraez, P., Pocknell, A. M., Rodriguez, F., Howie, F. E., Espinosa, A., Reid, R. J., Jaber, J. R., Martin, V., Cunningham, A. A. and Fernandez, A. 2003. Gas-bubble lesions in stranded cetaceans. Nature 425: 575-576.

Learmonth, J. A., Macleod, C. D., Santos, M. B., Pierce, G. J., Crick, H. Q. P. and Robinson, R. A. 2006. Potential effects of climate change on marine mammals. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review 44: 431-464.

Macleod, C. D., Perrin, W. F., Pitman, R. L., Barlow, J., Balance, L., D'amico, A., Gerrodette, T., Joyce, G., Mullin, K. D., Palka, D. L. and Waring, G. T. 2006. Known and inferred distributions of beaked whale species (Ziphiidae: Cetacea). Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 7(3): 271-286.

Malakoff, D. 2002. Suit ties whale deaths to research cruise. Science 298: 722-723.

Pitman, R. L. 2002. Mesoplodont whales Mesoplodon spp. In: W. F. Perrin, B. Wursig and J. G. M. Thewissen (eds), Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, pp. 738-742. Academic Press.

Pitman, R. L., Aguayo-L., A. and Urban-R., J. 1987. Observations of an unidentified beaked whale (Mesoplodon sp.) in the eastern tropical Pacific. Marine Mammal Science 3: 345-352.

Pitman, R. L. and Lynn, M. S. 2001. Biological observations of an unidentified mesoplodont whale in the eastern tropical Pacific and probable identity: Mesoplodon peruvianus. Marine Mammal Science 17(3): 648-657.

Reyes, J. C., Mead, J. G. and Van Waerebeek, K. 1991. A new species of beaked whale Mesoplodon peruvianus sp. n. (Cetacea: Ziphiidae) from Peru. Marine Mammal Science 7: 1-24.

Sanino, G. P., Yáñez, J. L. and Van Waerebeek, K. 2007. A first confirmed specimen record in Chile, and sightings attributed to the lesser beaked whale Mesoplodon peruvianus Reyes, Mead and Van Waerebeek, 1991. Boletín del Museo Nacional de Historia Natural, Chile 56: 89-96.

Scott, M. D., Hohn, A. A., Westgate, A. J., Nicolas, J. R., Whitaker, B. R. and Campbell, W. B. 2001. A note on the release and tracking of a rehabilitated pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps). Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 3(1): 87-94.

Urban-Ramirez, J. and Aurioles-Gamboa, D. 1992. First record of the pygmy beaked whale Mesoplodon peruvianus in the North Pacific. Marine Mammal Science 8: 420-425.

Wang, J. Y. and Yang, S. C. 2006. Unusual cetacean stranding events of Taiwan in 2004 and 2005. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 8: 283-292.

Citation: Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L. 2008. Mesoplodon peruvianus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 17 April 2014.
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