Update: Cuvier’s Beaked Whale Ziphius cavirostris

by Jane Ahrens
The skeleton of the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale salvaged from Fishers Island, NY.
The skeleton of the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale salvaged from Fishers Island, NY.

UPDATE: December 17, 2014 the Collections Manager of the New York State Museum wrote, “the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale that you wrote about earlier this year is now in our collection. Currently, the whale skeleton is available for research.”

In an August 2014 email from Tom French, Ph.D., Assistant Director of the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, to Joseph Bopp, New York State Museum’s Collections Manager, Mammalogy and Ornithology, we received the promised update on our 18’ 8” Cuvier’s Beaked Whale found on Hungry Point in February 2014.

Subject: Ziphius (SYZc1402), Fishers Isl., NY

Attached is a photo showing most of the skeleton of the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris) that we salvaged from Fishers Island, NY.  This photo was taken shortly after the skeleton was taken out from under the tarp where it has been decomposing, and was then washed.  I feel a lot better now that the skeleton can be stored indoors and is safe from the possibility of coyotes causing any damage to the skeleton.  By the time you pick it up, the skeleton will be clean and dry, and can go right into the New York State Museum Collections.

This animal was an old adult male.  It has some evidence of old and long-healed injuries, including fractured neural spines of the second and third thoracic vertebrae, a fracture on the seventh left rib, a broken but polished right tooth, and a fractured right mandible (proximal end).  The healed mandible is particularly interesting.

I cannot tell if the fresh bone fractures were associated with this animal’s death or not.  I did not see any evidence of hemorrhaging at any of these fracture sites when we salvaged the skeleton, but the fractures do show a pattern of damage which is different than I have usually seen on a carcass that was randomly rolled around on the shore and pushed up against rocks.  The second photo shows that eight of the nine right ribs are fractured at about the same location, except for the ninth rib which is fractured in three places (the head is missing in the photo). Other fresh bone damage includes the proximal end of the left mandible and the adjacent stylohyoid, the neural arches of the sixth and seventh cervical vertebrae, cracks in both scapulas, and small fractures on the posterior sides of both orbits.  This is still a very nice skeleton.

The ribs of the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale salvaged from Fishers Island, NY.
The ribs of the Cuvier’s Beaked Whale salvaged from Fishers Island, NY.

For the story and slideshow of the whale recovery please visit: 

And, the original story about finding it: 

Featured Photo

USCG Eagle passing the Race early morning March 18, 2023 on her return from the Chesapeake Bay . Photo Credit Marlin Bloethe

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