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false killer whale Image: flickr
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Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    crassidens
    Genus
    Pseudorca
    Family
    Delphinidae
    Order
    Cetacea
    Class
    Mammalia
    Phylum
    Chordata
    Kingdom
    Animalia

The False Killer Whale, Pseudorca crassidens is a slender dark dolphin-size whale with a small, rounded conical head.

Identification

Key identifying features of the False Killer Whale include a slender sickle-shaped dorsal fin and a prominent bump or bulge on the leading edge of each flipper. The common name is slightly misleading as its main resemblance to the Killer Whale is its strong set of large conical teeth rather than its overall physical appearance

Distribution

False Killer Whales have an extensive and wide distribution within tropical and warm temperate waters. They seem to prefer areas of deep water in the open ocean away from land yet they are frequently involved in mass stranding which can wipe out whole schools involving hundreds of animals.



Feeding and diet

The False Killer Whale is an efficient pack hunter. Their diet includes a variety of marine fauna such as squid and a large range of fish species. They have occasionally been observed to attack other whales and dolphins and are notorious for taking species such as yellowfin tuna weighing up to 30kg from longline fishing operations.

Life history cycle

This is a highly social species that relies on a high survival rate of young to maintain their population numbers. The gestation period is quite long - 14 to 16 months - with the interval between births estimated around seven years. Care of the young involves considerable investment with calves being nursed for up to two years. Their tendency to mass strand seems to support the existence of strong social affiliations within and between groups.

Conservation status

Although no serious conservation concerns exist for the False Killer Whale, some populations, most notably off Japan and parts of Asia, have been and still are deliberately hunted. They are also captured for the oceanarium trade and, like many cetaceans, there are incidental deaths associated with the fishing industry.

References

  • Baker, A. N. 1999. Whales and Dolphins of Australia and New Zealand: an identification guide. Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, Australia.
  • Bryden, M., Marsh, H. and Shaughnessy, P. 1998. Dugongs, Whales, Dolphins and Seals. A guide to the sea mammals of Australasia. Allen & Unwin, St Leonards, Australia.
  • Menkhorst, P. 2001. A Field Guide to Mammals of Australia. Oxford University Press, Melbourne, Australia.
  • Reeves, R. R., Stewart, B. S., Clapham, P. J. and Powell, J. A. 2002. National Audubon Society Guide to Marine Mammals of the World. Chanticleer Press, Inc New York, USA.