Whale of the Month - Sowerby's Beaked Whale
Our whale of the month for June is the Sowerby's beaked whale, the first beaked whale to be officially discovered. It is named after James Sowerby, an Englishman who described this species in 1804 after examining a skull that has washed up off the coast of Scotland in 1800. This whale can be found in the 7th stop of our audio-guide with the other beaked whales. While it is not common to see this whale around Iceland, their territory extends along the southern coast of Iceland. They live in waters ranging from 200 to 1,500 meters deep and are very shy, making sightings of them rare.
Very little information is known about Sowerby's beaked whale in comparison to many of the other whales featured in the exhibition. Their average lifespan and population estimates are unknown because there is not enough data available. The whales are a dark grey color with lighter undersides. Their sizes ranges from 5-6 meters, with females being slightly larger than males. Males can also be distinguished from females due to their two protruding teeth, visible on the lower jaw. Their average weight is estimated to be between 1,000 and 1,300 kg.
Sowerby's beaked whales are thought to travel in small pods ranging from 3 to 10 individuals. They eat squid, mollusks, and smaller fish, though larger fish like cod has also been found in their stomachs. They have been recorded diving for up to 28 minutes, though typical dives last 10-15 minutes.
The two largest threats that these whales face are noise pollution and encounters with fishing equipment like nets, lines, and vessels. It is difficult to have a good overview of the full scale of the impact that this has on them as it is challenging to locate and study them.