Mesoplodon hectori 


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Ziphiidae

Scientific Name: Mesoplodon hectori
Species Authority: (Gray, 1871)
Common Name(s):
English Hector's Beaked Whale, Skew-beaked Whale
French Mésoplodon De Hector
Spanish Ballena De Pico De Héctor, Zifio De Héctor

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 no information on global abundance or trends in abundance for this species. It is potentially vulnerable to low-level threats and a 30% global reduction over three generations cannot be ruled out (criterion A).
Previously published Red List assessments:
1996 Data Deficient (DD)
1994 Insufficiently Known (K)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Hector's beaked whale is considered to be a Southern Hemisphere cool temperate species (Mead 1989). The records (mostly strandings) are from southern South America, South Africa, southern Australia, and New Zealand. The single confirmed sighting record is from southwestern Australia (Gales et al. 2002). It has been speculated that the species has a continuous distribution in the Atlantic and Indian oceans at least from South America to New Zealand. Although there are no current records from the central and eastern Pacific Ocean, the range may prove to be circumpolar. These animals may be relatively common around New Zealand.

Previously, it was supposed that this species may also be vagrant in southern California, where there were several strandings and a possible sighting from 1975 to 1979 (Mead 1981, Mead and Baker 1987, Rice 1998). However, the California specimens were recently recognised as a new species Mesoplodon perrini, which is found in the eastern North Pacific (Dalebout et al. 1998; Dalebout et al. 2002).
Countries occurrence:
Argentina (Chubut); Australia (Coral Sea Is. Territory, Lord Howe Is., Tasmania); Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul); Chile; Falkland Islands (Malvinas); New Zealand (Antipodean Is., Chatham Is., Kermadec Is., North Is., South Is.); South Africa (Eastern Cape Province, Western Cape); United States (California)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – southeast; Atlantic – southwest; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – southeast; Pacific – southwest
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There is no information on populations of this species.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:In the only known confirmed identification of this species alive at sea, a single individual was observed in shallow waters, nearshore in Western Australia – almost definitely atypical for the species (Gales et al. 2002). Hector's beaked whale presumably occurs in deep waters beyond the edge of the continental shelf, as do other members of the genus.

Little is known of the diet, but Hector's beaked whales are known to feed on squid, like most other beaked whales.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Direct hunting has never been associated with this species. Pervasive gillnet and longline fisheries throughout the species' range raises concern that some bycatch is likely. Even low levels of bycatch might have an impact on this species.

This species, like other beaked whales, is likely to be vulnerable to loud anthropogenic sounds, such as those generated by navy sonar and seismic exploration (Cox et al. 2006).

As a temperate water species, Hector’s beaked whale may be vulnerable to the effects of climate change as ocean warming may result in a shift or contraction of the species range as it tracks the occurrence of its preferred water temperatures (Learmonth et al. 2006). The effect of such changes in range size or position on this species is unknown.

Evidence from stranded individuals of several similar species indicates that they have swallowed discarded plastic items, which may eventually lead to death (e.g. Scott et al. 2001); this species may also be at risk.

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.

Classifications [top]

10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.1. Marine Oceanic - Epipelagic (0-200m)
suitability: Marginal  
10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.2. Marine Oceanic - Mesopelagic (200-1000m)
suitability: Suitable  major importance:Yes
10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.3. Marine Oceanic - Bathypelagic (1000-4000m)
suitability: Suitable  major importance:Yes

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.3. Unintentional effects: (subsistence/small scale)
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

9. Pollution -> 9.4. Garbage & solid waste
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

9. Pollution -> 9.6. Excess energy -> 9.6.3. Noise pollution
♦ timing: Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.1. Habitat shifting & alteration
♦ timing: Future    
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.3. Life history & ecology
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

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.

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.

Dalebout, M. L., Mead, J. G., Baker, C. S., Baker, A. N. and van Helden, A. L. 2002. A new species of beaked whale Mesoplodon perrini sp. n. (Cetacea: Ziphiidae) discovered through phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequences. Marine Mammal Science 18(3): 577-608.

Dalebout, M. L., Van Helden, A., Van Waerebeek, K. and Baker, C. S. 1998. Molecular genetic identification of southern hermisphere beaked whales (Cetacea: Ziphiidae). Molecular Ecology 7: 687-694.

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.

Gales, N. J., Dalebout, M. L. and Bannister, J. L. 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(2): 544-551.

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.

IUCN. 2008. 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: (Accessed: 5 October 2008).

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.

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

Mead, J. G. 1981. First records of Mesoplodon hectori (Ziphiidae) from the northern hemisphere and a description of the adult male. Journal of Mammalogy 62: 430-432.

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

Mead, J. G. and Baker, A. N. 1987. Notes on the rare beaked whale, Mesoplodon hectori (Gray). Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand 17: 303-312.

Rice, D.W. 1998. Marine Mammals of the World: Systematics and Distribution. Society for Marine Mammalogy, Lawrence, Kansas.

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.

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 hectori. In: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T13248A3429412. . Downloaded on 28 November 2015.
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