Known as the Antillean or “Gulf Stream beaked whale,” the Gervais Beaked Whale is named for French naturalist Paul Gervais, the first to document the species in 1855.
The origin of the nickname is unclear, though the Antilles archipelago is certainly within the habitat range of this animal. Residing in the warmer waters of the North and Central Atlantic Ocean, the Gervais beaked whale, like all beaked whales, is rarely seen and is quick to avoid human contact.
There are 22 species in the Family Ziphiidae (beaked whales) and they are all so similar in appearance that even experienced researchers have difficulty telling species of them apart even when they’re dead. Adding to the difficulty are the shared behavioral traits of beaked whales that help maintain their anonymity: they maintain a low profile above the surface, avoiding breaching or attention-getting techniques displayed by other whales. Instead, beaked whales will typically make little noise or show when breathing at the surface despite often being in pods of up to 20 individuals and occasionally in groups as large as 50. Beaked whales also feed in deep water, often in depths of 2,500-4,000 feet (800-1,200 m), further complicating research on the animals.