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Last updated on April 24, 2014 at 16:36 EDT

Pygmy Killer Whale, Feresa attenuata

Image Caption: Fossil of Feresa Attenuata, Shimonoseki Marine Science Museum KAIKYOUKAN, Japan. Credit: OpenCage/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)

The pygmy killer whale is widely distributed in tropical and sub-tropical waters worldwide. Regular sightings of this species occur off the coast of Hawaii and Japan, and also in the Indian Ocean near Sri Lanka and Lesser Antilles. In the Atlantic the pygmy killer whale has been seen off the coast of South Carolina and Senegal. This species swims in groups of 10 – 30 in the open ocean, but sometimes larger groups are spotted.

The pygmy killer whale is actually a species of dolphin and is slightly larger than an average sized man. The body is dark in color on the top, sides are a little lighter, and the belly is usually white. The head is rounded with a beak and some have been spotted with the mouth and chin being surrounded by a white lining. The dorsal fin is curved and to a point. Lifespan is not known, but one individual was observed around the Hawaiian Islands for over 21 years.

The pygmy killer whale is no relation to the orca, or killer whale. While being a species of dolphin, it is much more aggressive than typical dolphin species and avoids human contact. The main diet of this very aggressive species is cephalopods, squid, octopus, and smaller fish. However, pygmy killer whales have been observed attacking other dolphins and even other pygmy killer whales for food.

Very little is known about the reproduction and mating habits of this marine mammal. The female will usually give birth to one calf averaging 32 inches in length. The calf is able to swim immediately, and will stay close to the mother, but the length of time she will nurse the calf is unclear.

Although the pygmy killer whale does not interact with humans as most dolphins will, it has been observed following boats, jumping and playing in the wake of the vessel. This species will communicate with each other with clicks and whistles, similar to the bottlenose dolphin.

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Synapsida

SubClass: Mammalia

Order: Cetacea

Family: Delphinidae

Pygmy Killer Whale Feresa attenuata