Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Toothed Whales, Overview

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter provides the overview of toothed whales. Toothed whales comprise the suborder Odontoceti of the order Cetacea. This suborder includes 10 diverse families, 2 of which contain large numbers of species. There are at least 71 species in all, including the true dolphins, monodontids, river dolphins, porpoises, beaked whales, and sperm whales. These species occur in three primary clades, the superfamilies Delphinoidea (true dolphins, monodontids, and porpoises), Ziphoidea (beaked whales), and Physeteroidea (sperm whales), whereas the affinities of the river dolphins remain uncertain. With the exception of the sperm whale (males of which reach up to 18 m) and the larger beaked whale species (. Berardius and Hyperoodon spp.), most odontocetes are small to medium-sized cetaceans, ranging in size from the Hector's dolphin (1.5 m) to the killer whale (8.5 m). These species show a range of distributions, with some such as river dolphins found only in quite specific areas, whereas others such as sperm whales or killer whales show a global distribution. Toothed whales have developed specialized sound production and reception mechanisms for the use of biosonar. All modern odontocetes are thought to use echolocation, in the same manner as bats, to gain an "image" of their environment. Although only a few species of odontocete are unequivocally known to echolocate, all odontocetes known to produce pulse-like sounds in the wild are assumed to be able to echolocate. Toothed whales are particularly well known for their brain size and rich social lives. The absolute brain size of odontocetes ranges from 840 g in common dolphins to 7820 g in sperm whales. However, a more useful way to compare brain sizes is to use the ratio of brain size to body size, the encephalization quotient (EQ). © 2009



Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Marine Mammals
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)9780123735539
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2009

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Best practice recommendations for the use of external telemetry devices on pinnipeds

    Horning, M., Andrews, R. D., Bishop, A. M., Boveng, P. L., Costa, D. P., Crocker, D. E., Haulena, M., Hindell, M., Hindle, A. G., Holser, R. R., Hooker, S. K., Hückstädt, L. A., Johnson, S., Lea, M-A., McDonald, B. I., McMahon, C. R., Robinson, P. W., Sattler, R. L., Shuert, C. R., Steingass, S. M. & 4 others, Thompson, D., Tuomi, P. A., Williams, C. L. & Womble, J. N., 4 Oct 2019, In : Animal Biotelemetry. 7, 17 p., 20.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Future directions in research on beaked whales

    Hooker, S. K., De Soto, N. A., Baird, R. W., Carroll, E. L., Claridge, D., Feyrer, L., Miller, P. J. O., Onoufriou, A., Schorr, G., Siegal, E. & Whitehead, H., 25 Jan 2019, In : Frontiers in Marine Science. 5, 16 p., 514.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Sea changes: Whales, krill and human exploitation books-and-arts

    Hooker, S., 14 Jun 2018, In : Nature. 558, 7709, p. 184-185 2 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article review

  4. Whales: their past, present and future

    Hammond, P. S., Heinrich, S., Hooker, S. K. & Tyack, P. L., 14 Jul 2017, London: Natural History Museum, London. 192 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

  5. Equity and career-life balance in marine mammal science?

    Hooker, S. K., Simmons, S. E., Stimpert, A. K. & McDonald, B. I., Jul 2017, In : Marine Mammal Science. 33, 3, p. 955-965 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 255715450