Northern Bottlenose Whale (Scotian Shelf population)

Hyperoodon ampullatus

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

The Northern Bottlenose Whale is a medium-sized whale. Adults typically measure seven to nine metres in length. Distinctive characteristics of the species include:

  • A large bulbous forehead and prominent beak
  • Grey or brown colouring
  • A small dorsal fin approximately two-thirds of the way down the back

Adult males can be distinguished from females or juvenile males by the following characteristics:

  • Adult males have larger, flatter foreheads that tend to get whiter with age
  • Adult males may have a single pair of erupted teeth in the lower jaw

Habitat

The Scotian Shelf population of Northern Bottlenose Whales inhabits deep waters (>500 metres) along the continental slope off of Nova Scotia and southeastern Newfoundland. The majority of sightings to date have been in three adjacent submarine canyons on the Eastern Scotian Shelf: the Gully, Shortland Canyon, and Haldimand Canyon. In 2010, these canyons were identified as critical habitat for the population under the Species at Risk Act (SARA).

The Scotian Shelf population of Northern Bottlenose Whales is genetically distinct from the more northerly Baffin Bay-Davis Strait-Labrador Sea population, which was assessed by COSEWIC as Special Concern in 2011.

  • Calves are smaller and have darker coloured foreheads (photo credit: Whitehead Lab)

    Calves are smaller and have darker coloured foreheads (photo credit: Whitehead Lab)

  • Females and young males have rounded foreheads (photo credit: H. Moors-Murphy)

    Females and young males have rounded foreheads (photo credit: H. Moors-Murphy)

  • The forehead of males gets flatter and whiter with age (photo credit: H. Moors-Murphy)

    The forehead of males gets flatter and whiter with age (photo credit: H. Moors-Murphy)

Threats

The Scotian Shelf population of Northern Bottlenose Whales is small, with an estimated 143 animals. Current threats to the population include (in no particular order) entanglement, oil and gas activities, acoustic disturbance, contaminants, changes in food supply, and vessel strikes. Anthropogenic (human-caused) noise is of particular concern since Northern Bottlenose Whales rely on sound to carry out their life functions, including foraging, socializing, and navigation. The deep-diving behaviour of these whales may make them especially vulnerable to physiological impacts from acoustic disturbance.

Further Information

A recovery strategy for the Scotian Shelf population was published on the Species at Risk Public Registry in May 2010, and a report on the progress of recovery strategy implementation is now available. The final version of the action plan, which includes detailed recovery measures to address threats and knowledge gaps, has been published on the Species at Risk Public Registry.

The Gully was designated a Marine Protected Area under the Oceans Act in 2004. The Scotian Shelf population of Northern Bottlenose Whales has likely benefitted from the high level of protection afforded to this core habitat area.

DFO and its partners, including academic scientists, the private sector, and other government departments, have been researching and monitoring this population for many years. This work has led to a better understanding of Northern Bottlenose Whale vocalizations, behaviour, habitat use, and population dynamics. For example, acoustic data was collected from 2012 to 2014 at three sites located within and between the three canyons. These data will help establish baseline information about Northern Bottlenose Whale presence and vocalizations. These data will also help determine ambient noise levels in their critical habitat areas. In addition, photo-identification has allowed scientists to track individuals and accurately determine the population size and trend.

To learn more about the Gully ecosystem and Northern Bottlenose Whales: The Gully Marine Protected Area: A Diversity of Life and a Sanctuary for Whales.

For more information on marine mammals and species at risk, visit Species at Risk Public Registry.

To report Northern Bottlenose Whale sightings, please contact DFO:

In the Maritimes:

Phone (toll-free): 1-844-800-8568
Email: XMARWhaleSightings@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Twitter: @DFO_MAR

In Newfoundland and Labrador:

Phone: 1-709-772-2295
Email: whalesighting@dfo-mpo.gc.ca or telljack@dfo-mpo.gc.ca
Twitter: @DFO_NL or @drjwlawson

To report Northern Bottlenose Whale incidents (e.g. dead, entangled, or injured animals), please call one of the following toll-free hotlines as soon as possible:

In the Maritimes:

1-866-567-6277 (Marine Animal Response Society)

In Newfoundland and Labrador:

1-888-895-3003 (Tangly Whales)

DFO Research Scientist, Dr. Hilary Moors-Murphy, studies and monitors whales in Eastern Canada. She uses rare video footage and photos to show you how to identify Northern Bottlenose Whales on the water and report your sighting.

Transcript

Narrator: "Fisheries and Oceans Canada presents: Identifying and Reporting Northern Bottlenose Whales. DFO Research Scientist, Dr. Hilary Moors-Murphy, studies and monitors whales in Eastern Canada. She offers the following information on Northern Bottlenose Whales and how to identify them on the water. And Hilary hopes you will help monitor these whales and report all sightings."

Dr. Hilary Moors-Murphy: "Northern Bottlenose Whales off the eastern Coast of Nova Scotia and southern coast of Newfoundland are endangered. Though they resemble Bottlenose Dolphins, Northern Bottlenose Whales are in fact large toothed whales, belonging to the family Ziphidae, or the beaked whales. Adults are 8-10 meters long or up to 30 feet. They have prominent, bottle-shaped beaks. Their color ranges from light to dark grey to brown. They also have rounded dorsal fins about two-thirds of the way down their backs. Their blow is small and bushy. Northern Bottlenose Whale calves, or babies, tend to be darker in color. The females and younger males have rounded foreheads. Older males have flat white foreheads and their foreheads get whiter with age. When Northern Bottlenose Whales surface, their forehead and blow are seen first and then their dorsal fin. They rarely raise their flukes, or tail, when diving. Like other beaked whales, Northern Bottlenose Whales do not have a notch in the middle of their tail flukes. Northern Bottlenose Whales tend to be found in deep water areas. Submarine canyon habitats off the Eastern Coast of Nova Scotia are especially important to Northern Bottlenose Whales. These whales are frequently found in the Gully, Shortland and Haldimand canyons of the Eastern Scotian Shelf; however, they may also appear in other areas off the coasts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

"Please help DFO monitor Northern Bottlenose Whales and report all sightings. Remember to provide important details about your sighting, including the number and type of whales seen, the date and time, and the location, such as your latitude and longitude. When possible, please share your photos and videos as well. To report Northern Bottlenose Whale sightings, please call 1-844-800-8568 or email XMARWhaleSightings@dfo-mpo.gc.ca. If you see entangled, injured or dead Bottlenose Whales, please contact the Marine Animal Response Society as soon as possible at 1-866-567-6277 or VHF Channel 16 or email marineanimalresponse@gmail.com."

Northern Bottlenose Whale (Scotian Shelf population)

Northern Bottlenose Whale

Illustration credit: Dorothea Kappler

Scientific name: Hyperoodon ampullatus
SARA Status:  Endangered
COSEWIC Status:  Endangered
Regions: Atlantic Ocean

Northern Bottlenose Whale Call - Gully MPA (on the Eastern Scotian Shelf)

Northern Bottlenose Whales produce echolocation pulses to both navigate and feed. These short sounds are high frequency clicks that last less than a second. They are produced at a frequency between 20-60 kHz. Toothed whales like Northern Bottlenose Whales produce clicks and listen for the returning echoes to locate objects in the water. In the case of Northern Bottlenose Whales, they are searching for Gonatus (or armhook) squid, their preferred prey. These clicks were recorded in the Gully Marine Protected Area. This large submarine canyon is located offshore of Nova Scotia where Northern Bottlenose Whales live year-round. The Gully has been designated critical habitat for Endangered Northern Bottlenose Whales.

see description below

Distribution of Northern Bottlenose Whales in Canadian waters. Source: COSEWIC.

This map shows the distribution of two designatable units of Northern Bottlenose Whales in Atlantic Canadian waters. The distribution of the Scotian Shelf population includes the deep waters along the continental shelf break and slope out to the Exclusive Economic Zone boundary and beyond, extending from the US-Canada border to the Grand Banks off Newfoundland and Labrador. The distribution of the Baffin Bay-Davis Strait-Labrador Sea population includes the deep waters off northern Newfoundland and Labrador into the Davis Strait.

see description below

This map shows the Critical Habitat identified for the Scotian Shelf Northern Bottlenose whale. The critical habitat includes three adjacent submarine canyon areas: 1) Zone 1 of the Gully Marine Protected Area; 2) Shortland Canyon; and 3) Haldimand Canyon. Each critical habitat area is bounded by a specific set of coordinates. The canyons are located offshore of Nova Scotia along the continental shelf break.

Did You Know?

Northern Bottlenose Whales are among the deepest-diving mammal species in the world, with dive depths often exceeding 1000 metres. The deepest dive recorded for the species was over 2300 metres.

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