Species

Northern Bottle Nose Whale

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  • Northern Bottle Nose Whale

Observations of the northern bottlenose whale are extremely rare in the Gulf and the Estuary.

The northern bottlenose whale is found in cold, deep waters of the North Atlantic (between the 40th and 80th parallels).

This species does not appear in the List of threatened or vulnerable species in Quebec.

The Scotian Shelf population is threatened by bycatch in fishing gear, oil and gas exploration, and development projects in and around its primary habitat near Sable Island.

The Scotian Shelf population was listed as “special concern” in 1996 and “endangered” in 2002 and 2011 by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s” (IUCN) List has listed the northern bottlenose whale population as “data deficient”.

The northern bottlenose whale has a varied diet that it pursues in deep waters and on the seabed: herring and other bottom-dwelling fish, shrimp as well as sea cucumbers and starfish.

Squid are its favourite prey.


Illustrated species: (from high to low, from left to right): herring, squid, starfish, shrimps, sea cucumber.


This is a gregarious species, forming pairs and pods of 3 to a dozen or so individuals.

Individuals of the same sex seem to form long relationships.

Pod members don’t abandon one of their own kind when an individual is injured.

The northern bottlenose whale emits whistles, chirps, modulated sounds and clicks.

Ultrasounds are used for echolocation to navigate and to find prey, while other vocalizations are used for communication.

It alternates rest periods and rapid swimming sequences, changing direction frequently. It rarely lifts its tail when diving.


Photo credit: Jean Lemire

Occasionally curious with boats, it may approach or even circle them if they are stationary.

The northern bottlenose whale dives to extreme depths (they can go up to 1500 m).

These dives generally last between 3 and 70 minutes.

Almost every year since 1988, Hal Whitehead and his team visit the deep underwater canyons off Nova Scotia. They study the small population of resident northern bottlenose whales from aboard their research sailboat Balaena. The research team observes and notes the position, movement and behaviour of these animals are listed with photo-identification. A catalogue of approximately 160 individuals has been compiled.

The research team also records northern bottlenose whale vocalizations along with ambient sounds, including the vocalizations of other whales and noise from seismic surveys and ships. Finally, they note the presence of other species that visit the area.