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Lagenorhynchus albirostris

Description: 

The white-beaked dolphin was only recognized as a separate species in 1846. Earlier finds remain unclear because they were sometimes confused with bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus) or common dolphins (Delphinus spp.).

White-beaked Dolphin © M. Camm

 

Physical Description & Behaviour

White-beaked dolphins are large and robust animals with a short thick snout (their beak is not more than 5-8 cm long) and a tall curved dorsal fin. Adults grow between 2.4 and 3.1 m long and weigh up to 350 kg. Their colouration is typically black on the back with a light saddle behind the dorsal fin and white bands on the flanks.

Schools of 20 animals are common but much larger schools have sometimes been recorded. They frequently ride on the bow-waves of vessels.

White-beaked dolphins feed on mid-water fish, especially cod, whiting, and other gadids, and squids. From time to time they have been observed feeding with orcas, fin or humpback whales.

 

Distribution & Abundance

The species is endemic in the sub-arctic North Atlantic, inhabiting shelf and sometimes shallow coastal waters.

The white-beaked dolphin is abundant in the northern North Sea and not uncommon in the southern part along the coast of the United Kingdom, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany. In some years small schools enter the Baltic Sea as well. According to the SCANS II Project, more than 8,000 individuals inhabit the ASCOBANS area. That abundance estimate could be somewhat inaccurate, however, as aerial surveys often do not allow white-beaked dolphins to be distinguished from white-sided dolphins.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ Assessment

  • LC (least concern)

 

Threats

Although not a target of any large commercial fisheries, there has been a long history of small-scale hunting in some countries, such as Norway, the Faeroe Islands, Greenland and Iceland. Incidental bycatch – mainly young individuals – occurs in trawl and bottom gill nets. As with many other marine mammals, ocean pollution and underwater noise pollution is of increasing concern. White-beaked dolphins are regionally contaminated by chlorine-derived pollutants and heavy metals, which negatively affect their health status.

 

More information on the white-beaked dolphin can be found at
http://www.cms.int/reports/small_cetaceans/data/l_albirostris/l_albirostris.htm.

 

 

Assessment information
CMS InstrumentsASCOBANS, CMS
IUCN StatusLeast concern
Geographic range
Countries Belgium (Status: Increase), Denmark (Status: Increase), Germany (Status: Decline), Ireland (Status: Unknown), Netherlands (Status: No apparent change), Norway (Status: Unknown), United Kingdom (Status: Unknown)
Common names
EnglishWhite-Beaked Dolphin
Taxonomy
ClassMammalia
OrderCetacea
FamilyDelphinidae
Scientific name Lagenorhynchus albirostris
Population size and trend
Population Size interval Size quality Estimated population size Size reference Size notes
Trend interval Trend quality Trend Trend reference Trend notes
Northern East AtlanticFair833 (SCANS Survey)* The total abundance estimate (16,787) can be found [more] The population size estimate is based on data collected during SCANS-II (2005) and CODA (2007) surveys. See the previous Trend Analysis document for more details. SCAN-II and CODA reports can be found in the additional notes section. *Note: the estimated population incorporates both Atlantic White-Sided Dolphins and White-Beaked Dolphins sightings. There are no separate estimates for this region. The animals sighted could not be distinguished from each other. This data was collected during the SCANS survey.
PoorUnknown Project Report: Review of Trend Analyses in the AS [more]
Northern North SeaFair1905 (just white-beaked); 2053 (white-beaked or white-sided) (SCANS Survey)* The total abundance estimate (16,787) can be found [more] The population size estimate is based on data collected during SCANS-II (2005) and CODA (2007) surveys. See the previous Trend Analysis document for more details. SCAN-II and CODA reports can be found in the additional notes section. *Note: the first estimate is the number of definite sightings of White-beaked dolphins in the Northern North Sea. The second estimate incorporates both Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin and White-Beaked Dolphin sightings. Some of the animals sighted could not be distinguished from each other. This data was collected during the SCANS survey.
PoorDecline - uncertain Project Report: Review of Trend Analyses in the A [more]
Inner Danish WatersFair16, 787 (SCANS Survey)* Project Report: Review of Trend Analyses in the AS [more] The population size estimate is based on data collected during SCANS-II (2005) and CODA (2007) surveys. See the previous Trend Analysis document for more details. SCAN-II and CODA reports can be found in the additional notes section. *Note: this population estimate is for all the White-beaked Dolphin sightings during the survey. There are no individual estimates for this region. This data was collected during the SCANS survey.
PoorIncrease - uncertain Project Report: Review of Trend Analyses in the AS [more]
Southern North SeaPoor2,443 (just white-beaked); 3,242 (white-beaked or white-sided) (SCANS Survey)* The total abundance estimate (16,787) can be found [more] The population size estimate is based on data collected during SCANS-II (2005) and CODA (2007) surveys. See the previous Trend Analysis document for more details. SCAN-II and CODA reports can be found in the additional notes section. *Note: the first estimate is the number of definite sightings of White-beaked dolphins in the Southern North Sea. The second estimate incorporates both Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin and White-Beaked Dolphin sightings. Some of the animals sighted could not be distinguished from each other. This data was collected during the SCANS survey.
PoorNo apparent change - uncertain Project Report: Review of Trend Analyses in the AS [more]
English ChannelFair16, 787 (SCANS Survey)* Project Report: Review of Trend Analyses in the AS [more] The population size estimate is based on data collected during SCANS-II (2005) and CODA (2007) surveys. See the previous Trend Analysis document for more details. SCAN-II and CODA reports can be found in the additional notes section. *Note: this population estimate is for all the White-beaked Dolphin sightings during the survey. There are no individual estimates for this region. This data was collected during the SCANS survey.
PoorNo apparent change Project Report: Review of Trend Analyses in the AS [more]
Other details
Additional notesA SCANS-II report can be found here: http://biology.st-andrews.ac.uk/scans2/inner-furtherInfo.html and here http://biology.st-andrews.ac.uk/scans2/documents/final/SCANS-II_final_report.pdf. A CODA report can be found here: ttp://biology.st-andrews.ac.uk/coda/documents/CODA_Final_Report_11-2-09.pdf. The notes in the Threat section (Related Content) refer to the level of importance needed to address causes of mortality (identified from post-mortem examinations) of cetaceans in the ASCOBANS Agreement Area. This information also comes from this report: Project Report: Review of Trend Analyses in the ASCOBANS Area (AC18_6-05_ProjectReportTrendAnalysis_Corr.pdf).

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