What's on the move

Tasman beaked whale

Tasmacetus shepherdi

(Image credit: David Donnelly )

Very little is known about this elusive beaked whale. Shepherd’s beaked whale has only been captured on film a handful of times, including off Portland (west coast Victoria) in 2012 by the Australian Antarctic Division. The first record of a stranding in Victorian waters was also in 2012, with this specimen added to Museum Victoria’s collection.

Shepherd’s beaked whales have a dark brown/grey upper body and a pale underside which extends onto the flank above the pectoral fin and into the tailstock roughly in line with the dorsal fin. They have a distinctive pale rounded head with clear demarcation to a long narrow beak (rostrum), a dark mask-like patch around the eye and in adult males, have two small teeth erupted at the point of the lower jaw. They have small pectoral fins and a relatively small dorsal fin positioned approximately 70% along the body. The dorsal fin is mostly curved in shape but may appear triangular in some individuals. Interestingly, this is the only beaked whale species with a fully functional set of teeth in both the upper and lower jaw.

Interestingly, this is the only beaked whale species with a fully functional set of teeth in both the upper and lower jaw.

Primarily known from a around 25 strandings and 28 live sightings.

Length: Up to 7 m


Open ocean in cold temperate waters of the southern hemisphere; 200-3000 m depth

WA, SA, TAS and Vic. Probably circumglobal in temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere

Log it

Log this species wherever it is spotted in Victorian waters

Related links/info

Species names on the Redmap site are based on the Codes for Australian Aquatic Biota or CAAB (http://www.cmar.csiro.au/caab/). This is updated regularly and lists the approved common name, family, species name and more.

Species descriptions were provided by David Donnelly.

Related links:

Donnelly, D., Ensor P., Gill P., Clarke R.C, Evans K., Double M.C., Webster T., Rayment W., Schmitt N.T. New Diagnostic Descriptions and Distribution Information For Shepherd's Beaked Whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi) Off Southern Australia And New Zealand. Marine Mammal Science 2018

Pitman, R. L., A. L. Van Helden, P. B. Best and A. Pym. 2006. Shepherd’s beaked whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi): Information on appearance and biology based on strandings and at-sea observations. Marine Mammal Science 22:744–755.

Mead, J.G. 2009. Shepherd’s Beaked Whales. Pages 1011-1014 in W. F. Perrin, B. Wursig, and J. G. M. Thewissen, editors.

Encylodedia of marine mammals: Second Edition. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.Jefferson, T.A., Webber, M.A. & Pitman, R.L. 2008. Marine mammals of the world: a comprehensive guide to their identification. Academic Press, London.

Contact the Whale and Dolphin Emergency Hotline on 1300 136 017 if you find stranded, entangled, sick or injured whales or dolphins.

Donnelly, D. M., Ensor, P. & Schmitt, N.T. 2012. The First Confirmed At-Sea Sightings and New Diagnostic Descriptions of Shepherd's Beaked Whale (Tasmacetus shepherdi). Poster presentation: AMSA-NZMSS Conference. Hobart, Tasmania.


Number of sightings 0

Redmap is funded by

Lead institutes