PYGMY KILLER WHALE
Scientific Name: Feresa attenuata
Other Names: Slender Blackfish, Slender Pilot Whale
Although the Pygmy Killer Whale is, technically, found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, it is rarely seen in the wild. They are only a little bigger than the average dolphin and have been known to display aggressive behaviour towards both humans and other cetaceans when kept in captivity. It is unknown if this behaviour is also shown in the wild, although some body scarring indicates that it may well be.
The Pygmy Killer Whale is robust in front of the dorsal fin, but much more slender towards the rear of its body. The body colour ranges from a dark blue-black or grey to a brown-grey. There is a darker shade of colour on its back in front of the dorsal fin, known as a cape. There is a large white patch on the underside of the whale, which is bisected by a deep groove.
The dorsal fin is tall and concave and the pectoral fins long with rounded tips. The fluke (or tail fin) has a slight central notch and pointed tips.
There are white markings along the lips and some individuals have a white chin. The head is rounded and there is no beak.
Adult Pygmy Killer Whales reach a length of between seven and eight feet (or between 2.1 and 2.6 metres). They weight approximately 110 – 170 kilograms (between 240 and 375 pounds) at maturity.
This elusive whale generally avoids boats and humans. On sunny days, they have been seen logging (floating at the surface of the water to enjoy the warmth). They have occasionally been seen spyhopping, breaching and lobtailing as well as riding in the wake of the boats.
The Pygmy Killer Whale travels in pods of about 15 to 25 individuals, although this is variable. When startled, they quickly bunch together and swim away. On extremely rare occasions, in excess of 100 individual whales have been seen together. Sadly, this whale species often gets stranded on the beach, where it dies.
Where to Find Them
The Pygmy Killer Whale occupies the central band of tropical and subtropical waters around the world. They prefer deep waters that are warm. On the rare occasion that they have been spotted, it has usually been in the waters of Hawaii and Japan.
This cetacean has between 16 and 24 teeth in its upper jaw and between 20 and 26 in its lower jaw. It is a hunter, living off fish and squid. Occasionally, when available, it will also eat other marine mammals (such as seals, which are rich in fat. This fat is essential to retaining the blubbery layer beneath the surface of the whale’s skin).
Due to its known habitat, the largest threat facing the Pygmy Killer Whale remains fishing nets. These are cast out with the aim of catching fish for the consumer market. However, many other animals become trapped in these indiscriminate death traps. The whale becomes tangled in its web and, unable to reach the surface for air, drowns.