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Northern Bottlenose Whale


Scientific name: Hyperoodon ampullatus. 
Order: Artiodactyla.
Family: Ziphiidae.
Genus: Hyperoondon.

IUCN Status

Data deficient

Other names

North Atlantic bottlenose whale.


A medium sized whale, with males growing up to 11.2 meters and females growing up to 8.7 meters. They have chocolate brown or olive brown or grey colouration and a pale patch on the forehead, and lighter colours on their flanks and underbelly.

Northern bottlenose whales can also be identified by their bulbous forehead, broad flukes with concave edges, and a small dorsal fin which is sickle shaped and is set 2/3 of the way back towards the tail. Their flippers are small and pointed, which can be tucked away into the flipper pockets.

Habitat and distribution

Northern bottlenose whales are normally seen over canyons and deeper waters in the Bay of Biscay, but occasionally come in close to the shore. The exact number is unknown, but it is estimated that there are over 10,000 Northern bottlenose whales left in the wild.


They are normally seen in pods of 4 to 20 individuals and can sometimes be seen surfacing together. When the surface, they below every 30 seconds for 10 minutes before diving again. They surface at an angle that often reveals the forehand, and that can create a ‘bow-wave’. Northern bottlenose whales have been known to approach boats and ships.

Confusion with other species

Cuvier's beaked whale: similar in colour, size and general shape. they are similar in colour, size, and general shape. 

Minke whale: they are a similar shape and have a similar fin shape, but minke whales are more blackish, and don’t have a bulbous head. 


During the late 19th century and the 20th century they were hunted for their oil and meat. Other threats are entanglement in fishing gear, collisions with ships and plastic pollution.

Interesting facts

They can dive for about 2 hours at a time whilst feeding.

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