FROM THE COLLECTION // Appreciating the Sculptural Beauty of a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale Skull

FROM THE COLLECTION aims to introduce readers to the inventories of local art galleries, museums and other cultural institutions, not via official exhibition notes but by way of the people that help manage and maintain the collections themselves.

“The elusive Ziphius cavirostris (Cuvier’s Beaked Whale) holds the record for both the deepest (2,992 m) and longest (222 minutes) dives of any mammal. Imagine holding your breath for nearly the entirety of the extended edition of The Return of the King.”

For this edition From The Collection, we asked Chris Stinson (Lead Curatorial Assistant of Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians at The Beaty Biodiversity Museum at UBC to share a museum piece that really spoke to him. Chris promptly presented a bone from the the elusive Ziphius cavirostris.

“Until recently human knowledge of Cuvier’s Beaked Whale was nearly wholly dependant on stranded specimens found washed up on beaches. Present around much of the world’s oceans, the elusive Ziphius cavirostris holds the record for both the deepest (2,992 m) and longest (222 minutes) dives of any mammal. Imagine holding your breath for nearly the entirety of the extended edition of The Return of the King. Thanks to modern satellite-linked tags and other technology we are learning more and more about this and other ocean species. The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is fortunate to have three of these rare and exceptional specimens in our collections. Two were stranded on Haida Gwaii in the 1960s, and the other is from Bella Bella. The sculptural beauty of a Cuvier’s Beaked Whale skull is a wonder in and of itself, but when one considers this belonged to one of the least known and behavioural exceptional species of mammals on the planet, a new dimension of fascination pervades it.”


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