Diving Behaviour of Cuvier’s Beaked Whales (Ziphius cavirostris) off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina

Cuvier’s beaked whales exhibit exceptionally long and deep foraging dives. The species is little studied due to their deepwater, offshore distribution and limited time spent at the surface. We used LIMPET satellite tags to study the diving behaviour of Cuvier’s beaked whales off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina from 2014 to 2016. We deployed 11 tags, recording 3242 h of behaviour data, encompassing 5926 dives. Dive types were highly bimodal; deep dives (greater than 800 m, n = 1408) had a median depth of 1456 m and median duration of 58.9 min; shallow dives (50–800 m, n = 4518) were to median depths of 280 m with a median duration of 18.7 min. Most surface intervals were very short (median 2.2 min), but all animals occasionally performed extended surface intervals. We found no diel differences in dive depth or the percentage of time spent deep diving, but whales spent significantly more time near the surface at night. Other populations of this species exhibit similar dive patterns, but with regional differences in depth, duration and inter-dive intervals. Satellite-linked tags allow for the collection of long periods of dive records, including the occurrence of anomalous behaviours, bringing new insights into the lives of these deep divers.


Shearer, J.M., N.J. Quick, W.R. Cioffi, R.W. Baird, D.L Webster, H.J. Foley, Z.T. Swaim, D.M. Waples, J.T. Bell and A.J. Read. 2019. Diving Behavior of Cuvier’s Beaked Whales (Ziphius cavirostris) off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Royal Society Open Science 6: 181728. doi: 10.1098/rsos.181728

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