Common Name: Melon-Headed Whale
General Description: Melon-headed whales are amongst the ‘blackfish’ along with false killer whales and pygmy killer whales and pilot whales. Its body is elongated and usually slim. The tail stock is slender. The forehead is rounded, ending in a rounded melon shape or a very indistinct beak. The lower portion of the face is usually slightly concave. The head appears triangular from above and below. The flippers are long, and the tall dorsal fin is back-curved.
The body is uniformly black or very dark grey on the back and sides and a little lighter on the belly. A small triangular darkening in the face that tapers toward the eyes may be seen in the field. There is a faint grey throat patch. Areas around the lips and the anal and genital regions may be light coloured.
Size: The length is up to 2.7 m and the weight up to 180 kg.
Appearance At Sea: Very little is known of the Melon-headed whale’s natural history. It normally forms groups of 20 to 30, but schools of 500 are known to occur.
They arch quite strongly while diving, exposing the keel on the tailstock.They have not been seen to bowride.
Found In: A pelagic animal with a preference for offshore waters. They feed on squids and small fish. There are reports of these whales possibly attacking porpoises escaping from seine nets of tuna fishermen in the Pacific.
Records from India: There are few records of the Melon-headed Whale from India- mostly from the south east coast of India. It is said to be recorded from Porto Novo.
World Distribution: Found in all tropical and subtropical waters of the world, melon-headed whales are rare.
Could Be Confused With: At a distance, could be confused with bottlenose dolphins.There is a greater possibility of confusion with other blackfish.
Diagnostic Features: At sea, prominent dorsal fin, narrow head curved into a ‘parrot beak’, pointed flippers, light region around the lips.
Stranded Specimens: There are 20 to 25 pairs of small, sharply pointed teeth in the upper jaw and 22 to 24 pairs in the lower jaw.