Cuvier’s Beaked Whale

December 12, 2012 by  

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale, Cuvier’s beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris) is the most widely distributed of all the beaked whales. It is the only member of the genus Ziphius. Another common name for the species is goose-beaked whale because its head is said to be shaped like the beak of a goose.

The French anatomist Georges Cuvier, in his treatise Sur les Ossemens fossiles (1823), first described the species based on an imperfect skull from the Mediterranean coast of France. It had been obtained by M. Raymond Gorsse in the department of Bouches-du-Rhône, near Fos, in 1804 from a peasant who had found it on the seashore the previous year.

Cuvier named it Ziphius cavirostris, the specific name being derived from the Latin cavus for “hollow” or “concave”, in reference to the deep hollow (the prenarial basin) in the skull, a diagnostic trait of the species. Cuvier believed it to represent the remains of an extinct species. It wasn’t until 1850 that zoologists realized the extant nature of the species, when Paul Gervais compared the type specimen to another that had stranded at Aresquiès, Hérault, in May of the same year, and found the two to be identical.

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