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Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 21:24 EDT

False Killer Whale

The False Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens) is a cetacean and one of the larger members of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). It lives in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. As its name implies the False Killer Whale shares characteristics with the more widely known orca (“killer whale”). The two species look somewhat similar and, like the orca, the False Killer Whale attacks and kills other cetaceans.

Scientists have not extensively studied the False Killer Whale in the wild – examining stranded animals has derived much of the data about the dolphin.

The species is the only member of the Pseudorca genus.

Physical description & behavior

This dolphin has a slender body with a dorsal fin that may be more than a foot high. One of the species’ distinguishing characteristics is a bend and bulge (usually called the “elbow”) halfway along each of the flippers. The tips of the tail fin are pointed and the middle of the tail has a distinct notch. The False Killer is uniformly colored a dark grey to black. It grows to about 19 ft (6 m) long, may weigh 1.5 tons (1,500 kg) and lives for about 60 years.

The False Killer Whale is a social animal, living in groups of 10 to 50. It is a fast and very active swimmer. It may breach or jumps clear of the water and will often land on its side with a big splash. On other occasions the dive may be very graceful, leaving very little wake at all. It will readily approach boats and bow- and wake-ride. It may also emerge from the water head held high upwards and with the mouth open, revealing some of its 44 teeth.

Population and distribution

Although not often seen at sea, the False Killer Whale appears to have a widespread distribution in temperate and tropical oceanic waters. They have been sighted in fairly shallow waters such as the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea as well as the Atlantic Ocean (from Scotland to Argentina), the Indian Ocean (in coastal regions) and the Pacific Ocean (from the Sea of Japan to New Zealand and the tropical area of the eastern side).
The total population is unknown. The eastern Pacific was estimated to have in excess of 40,000 individuals and is probably the home of the largest grouping.

False Killer Whale