Mesoplodon traversii (Gray, 1874)

English: Spade-toothed beaked whale
German: Travers-Zweizahnwal
Spanish: Zifio de Travers, ballena picuda de Travers
French: Baleine à bec de Travers

Family Ziphiidae



Provisional drawing of Mesoplodon traversii ©Wurtz-Artescienza (see links).


1. Description

Only 3 specimens were found to date and no description of external features is available. The skull of an subadult specimen from Chile was estimated to belong to an animal of ca. 5.0 - 5.5m long (Reyes et al. 1995). Described in 1874 based on a damaged mandible and teeth, M. traversii was synonymized in 1878 with Layard's beaked whale M. layardii by James Hector (van Helden et al. 2002) leading to the species vanishing from scientific literature for almost 120 years.

In 1995, researchers in South America who collected an enigmatic skull from Isla Mas a Tierra in Chile's Juan Fernández Archipelago concluded that it belonged to an unrecognized mesoplodont which they described as Bahamonde's beaked whale M. bahamondi Reyes, Van Waerebeek, Cárdenas and Yañez, 1995. Further comparative morphological and mt-DNA studies revealed that M. bahamondi was in fact the long-forgotten M. traversii, which name, a senior synonym, was then resurrected (van Helden et al., 2002). The teeth alveoli straddle the posterior end of the mandibular symphysis and the broad teeth carry a prominent denticle (van Helden et al., 2002). .back to the top of the page


2. Distribution

Probably a South Pacific and possibly even circumantarctic species (Jefferson et al. 2008). The three specimens identified to date stem from Isla Robinson Crusoe (Isla Más a Tierra) in the Juan Fernández Archipelago, Chile (Reyes et al., 1995 ), White Island (New Zealand) and Pitt Island (Chatham Islands)(van Helden et al., 2002). M. traversii is the name originally given to a mandible and teeth recovered in New Zealand in 1874 (van Helden et al. 2002).

Possible distribution of Mesoplodon traversii (Taylor et al. 2008; © IUCN; enlarge map).
All known specimens stem from the South Pacific (van Helden et al., 2002).
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3. Population size

Unknown.back to the top of the page


4. Biology and Behaviour

Unknown.back to the top of the page


5. Migration

Unknown.back to the top of the page


6. Threats

Unknown.back to the top of the page


7. Remarks

Range states: Chile and New Zealand (Taylor et al. 2008).

The species is categorised as "Data Deficient" by IUCN and is not listed by CMS. Listed in Appendix II of CITES.
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8. Sources and further information

see "Genus Mesoplodon - Beaked whales: Introduction and Sources"

© Boris Culik (2010) Odontocetes. The toothed whales: "Mesoplodon traversii". UNEP/CMS Secretariat, Bonn, Germany.http://www.cms.int/small-cetaceans
© Illustrations by Maurizio Würtz, Artescienza.
© Maps by IUCN.

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