Common Name: Longman’s Beaked Whale
General Description: Longman’s Beaked Whale is a little known cetacean. The existence of this species is known from two skulls found at widely separated locations.
The skull is similar to that of True’s Beaked Whale M. mirus, a species that is found in the temperate waters of the North and South Atlantic, and which is also known to have stranded on the east coast of South Africa.
Size: The skull size suggests a length of 7 m.
Appearance At Sea: Longman’s Beaked Whale has never been seen in entirety, either living or dead.
Found In: The habitat of Longman’s Beaked Whale is not known exactly.
Records from India: There are no records from India. One possible sighting of this species occurred near the Seychelles in April 1980. A group of four whales, three adults about 4.6 m long and one juvenile about 2.4 m long, was observed and photographed. The animals were grey on the back and lighter below. They were slender, and had a pointed dorsal fin. An examination of the photographs led to the conclusion, on the basis of beak length. that the animals were either Longman’s Beaked Whale or Gray’s Beaked Whale M. grayi. Gray’s Beaked Whale is a species restricted to the temperate waters of the southern hemisphere and the eastern North Atlantic.
Other possible sightings of the species have taken place in the Gulf of Aden and near Christmas Island, at 145ºW on the Equator. The Gulf of Aden record was of a group of rust-brown coloured whales with slender beaks. The Christmas Island sighting was also of a group, which consisted of 25 unusually large beaked whales.
World Distribution: One of the two known specimens was a skull found on a beach at Mackay in Queensland, Australia, in 1822. The species was described in 1926 on the basis of this specimen. The second specimen of this whale is another skull, found at Danane, Somalia in 1955. This second skull was found by Dr. Ugo Funaioli, a visitor from Italy, on the floor of a fertilizer factory near Mogadishu. Dr. Funaioli took it to Florence after locating the beach where it was found. The skull was examined in 1968 and confirmed to be that of the rarest living cetacean.
Could Be Confused With:There is not sufficient information to identify this species accurately. Some taxonomists believe it is a misidentification of the Southern Bottlenose Whale Hyperoodon planifrons, whilst others feel it is a subspecies of True’s Beaked Whale. Yet others think that it should be placed in a separate genus.
Diagnostic Features: At sea, there is insufficient information regarding this species but any large beaked whale that does not seem to fit into a recognised species has a probability of being Longman’s Beaked whale.
Stranded Specimens:There is a pair of very small teeth at the tip of the lower jaw, and an unusual hoodlike formation of the cheek bones.