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Beaked Whales

, 208 pages

25 color illus., 29 line drawings

May 2017



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Beaked Whales

A Complete Guide to Their Biology and Conservation


Beaked whales have been shrouded in mystery for most of the twentieth century. Denizens of deep, remote ocean waters and highly resistant to life in captivity, they have proven notoriously difficult for humans to observe. Over the past few decades, however, scientists have gained a better understanding of this distinct group of cetaceans, deciphering the natural history of the twenty-two beaked whale species. Here, famed artist and naturalist Richard Ellis and leading beaked whale researcher James G. Mead bring these elusive marine mammals into the limelight.

Beaked whales’ generous life spans can extend well past 70 years. They spend their decades diving to extreme depths in search of prey, which they capture by expanding their oral cavity suddenly to suck in the squid or fish they are hunting. It appears that these sleek predators may engage in fierce, clandestine aquatic battles, as the bodies of many males are covered in scars. Because many species are only somewhat larger than dolphins, they are often confused with porpoises; however, some larger beaked whale species may grow to 40 feet. These enigmatic and compelling creatures need our help; their numbers are declining, perhaps due to the damaging effects of naval sonar on their sophisticated auditory systems.

In Ellis and Mead’s book, the beaked whales finally get their due. The duo provides a combination of captivating stories about the species, original Richard Ellis art, and photos from leading natural history photographers. The result is an accessible, beautiful book—the first of its kind on this unusual group of cetaceans. Meet the beaked whales, and enjoy the fascinating and mysterious world in which they live.

Richard Ellis is a naturalist and world-renowned marine painter. He is the author of numerous books, including Monsters of the Sea: The History, Natural History, and Mythology of the Oceans’ Most Fantastic Creatures and The Great Sperm Whale: A Natural History of the Ocean’s Most Magnificent and Mysterious Creature. James G. Mead is curator emeritus of marine mammals at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. He is considered the world expert on beaked whales.

"Features descriptive guides to each of the species, wonderfully adorned by Ellis’s paintings of the males, followed by a broadly based account of the biology of the group as a whole and of the threats these enigmatic creatures currently face."

"Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and general readers."

"This is a nice book for anyone with a strong interest in whales."

"Beaked Whales: a Complete Guide to their Biology and Conservation is an excellent overview of an elusive family of cetaceans that blends two disciplines – natural art and natural history – to achieve ambitious objectives. It is a book for those interested in marine biology at an entry level, yet specialists should purchase a copy to better understand how innovative composition and a creative angle can better communicate contemporary research and species information."

"Not only does it provide a concise overview of beaked whales as a group, it presents clear and easy-to-understand information – in some cases quite possibly even everything known – about each species in this elusive group of marine mammals."

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