Despite being the most commonly sighted species of beaked whale in the Antarctic, the southern bottlenose whale is one of the least well-studied species in the family Ziphiidae.
The southern bottlenose whale forms an ‘anti-tropical species pair' with the northern bottlenose whale.
Other names: Antarctic bottlenose whale, Flatheaded bottlenose whale, Flathead
IUCN conservation status: Least Concern
What do southern bottlenose whales look like?
The Southern bottlenose whale is a large, robust beaked whale. It has a bulbous melon, which becomes larger as the males age. The forehead is steep, and the stubby beak is well defined resembling the beak of several dolphin species. Two small conical teeth erupt at the tip of the lower jaw in males although these are not always seen outside of the jaw. The body is pale tan or olive brown in colour with extensive scarring, especially on older males and whitish spots on the belly and flanks are likely to be scars resulting from the bite of cookie cutter sharks. The head, face, and belly of the southern bottlenose whale are a paler cream colour and in general, females are darker with a smaller, less bulbous, melon. As with other species of beaked whale they have 'flipper pockets' for when they dive, and a small, pointed, triangular or falcate dorsal fin set well back on the body.
What’s life like for a southern bottlenose whale?
Like other beaked whales, they are an oceanic species and are rarely found on the continental shelf. However, they are thought to be migratory in nature and in summer months are found within 100kms of the ice-edge. Southern bottlenose whales have a bushy blow, 1-2m high, which tilts forward slightly and they are known to avoid vessels have been seen breaching and porpoising away from boats. Usually found in small groups of between one and ten animals, larger groups of up to 25 individuals have been encountered.
What do southern bottlenose whales eat?
A deep diving species, southern bottlenose whales feed on squid and some deep-water fish species like Patagonian tooth-fish.
Where do southern bottlenose whales live?
The range of the southern bottlenose whale extends in a circumpolar band around the southern hemisphere from Antarctica north to 30°S. With a preference for deeper waters they are usually found in waters over 1000m in depth, over submarine canyons and far beyond the continental shelf.
Southern bottlenose whales need your help
The main threats...
- Stop whaling – although never the target of commercial whaling operations, southern bottlenose whales have been taken for ‘research and scientific’ purposes by the Japanese whaling fleets.
- Prevent deaths in nets – southern bottlenose whales are known to suffer from entanglement in drift nets.
- Pollution – noise pollution is of serious concern for all beaked whales including southern bottlenose whales.