Mesoplodon europaeus


Gervais’ beaked whale lives in warm temperate and subtropical waters and is rarely seen at sea, due to the difficulty of not confusing it with other species of the genus Mesoplodon when identifying it, especially with the True’s beaked whale. They are deep-diving whales.


Physical description and behaviour:

A key feature of the species is the clearly defined, short and slender beak and its relatively straight mouth-line. Adult males also have a pair of triangular teeth in the lower jaw at about one-third along the gape from the tip of the snout. This pair of teeth is visible above the gum in males and is usually not visible in females and youngs where the pair also tends to be smaller.

The species’ body colour tends to be indigo or dark grey on the back and can get medium or light grey on the belly and lower flanks, especially in adult males. Juveniles also have a white belly. Pale and dark stripes creating a pattern over the back are often observed and the species can exhibit a dark eye patch, similarly to their cousin the True’s beaked whale.

Gervais’ beaked whales measure around 4.5 to 5 m in length and have a spindle-shaped body. Their head is proportionally small with a prominent bulge on the forehead in front of the blowhole. Their flippers are quite small and narrow, and the dorsal fin is slightly recurved or triangular located two-thirds along the back. Their tails are unnotched.


Distribution and abundance:

Most records of the species came from the western Atlantic, ranging from the eastern Caribbean in the south to Long Island, New York in the north. It is the species of its genus most commonly recorded off the East Coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico (Jefferson & Schiro, 1997; Mead, 1989).

In recent years various strandings have been reported in eastern North Atlantic, ranging from western Ireland to southern Spain and further south from the Azores to Guinea-Bissau. Most of these occurred in the Canaries.


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ Assessment

  • LC (Least Concern) globally, last assessed in 2020
  • DD (Data Deficient) in Europe, last assessed in 2007



Beaked whales are known to be very sensitive to mid-frequency active sonars and they have demonstrated a clear behavioural response to their use. The main threat is thus noise pollution. Little is known on other possible threats.


Assessment information
CMS InstrumentsASCOBANS, ACCOBAMS, Western African Aquatic Mammals
IUCN StatusLeast concern

No pictures for Mesoplodon europaeus

Common names
EnglishGervais' Beaked Whale
Scientific name Mesoplodon europaeus
Other details
Additional notesUpdates have been made in August 2021 as per European Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises by Peter G. H. Evans (2020) unless stated otherwise.