Common Name: Pygmy Sperm Whale
General Description: The Pygmy Sperm Whale has a sharklike appearance. It has a robust body with a short head. In larger animals, the head is boxlike or rectangular, at times bulbous. The lower jaw ends well behind the tip of the snout. There is no beak and the tail stock is narrow. The nose is swollen and filled with spermaceti.
The flippers are situated well forward on the body. They are wide at the base, tapering to a point. The low and sickle-shaped dorsal fin is positioned behind the centre of the back. The tail has a concave trailing edge.
Pygmy Sperm Whales are dark bluish grey above, shading to lighter grey behind, and fading gradually to a dull white or pink on the belly. The outer margins of the flippers and the upper surfaces of the tail flukes are steel grey. On each side of the head behind the eye is a crescent shaped light mark with a darker line behind it called the false gill, which accentuates the appearance of a shark. The body may appear wrinkled in some individuals.
Size: Adults, The length is up to 3.4 m, and the weight about 400 kg. Calves at birth,1.2 m long, weigh around 55 kg.
Appearance At Sea: Pygmy Sperm Whales are thought to be shy, slow-moving animals. They have often been sighted alone, but may form social units of three to five individuals. They are likely to be found motionless in the water, their tails hanging down loosely. When alarmed they defecate and dive through a rust-coloured fecal stain that slowly spreads over the water.
Found In: Pygmy Sperm Whales may be primarily oceanic. However, they tend to stay close to or over the continental slope. They feed on squid, fish and crabs from both deep and shallow water.
Records from India: That there are two distinct species of small sperm whales, the Dwarf and the Pygmy, was recognised relatively recently. Older records have therefore lumped the two together. From India, there are records of the Pygmy Sperm Whale from Visakhapatnam and Trivandrum. With the available information, it is not clear whether these are distinct from the records of the Dwarf Sperm Whale from the same localities.
Date : 1866 [?]
Details : A 2.1 m (7 feet) long specimen obtained at Vizagapatam.
References : Moses, 1947
Date : February 1925 [?]
Details : A gravid female specimen about 3 m (10 feet) long and one immature specimen at Trivandrum.
References : Pillay, 1926
Date : 8 July 1988
Details : A 1.95 m long specimen from Port Blair, Andamans with an 80 cm foetus.
References : Chantrapornsyl et al., 1991
The species has been reliably reported, however, from Sri Lanka, where it is accidentally caught in fishing nets.
World Distribution: The species is found in nearly all tropical and temperate seas.
Could Be Confused With:There is a possibility of confusion with the Dwarf Sperm Whale Kogia simus. The two species can be distinguished as follows:
Species : Pygmy Sperm Whale
Size : Up to 3.4 m long
Fin: Less than 20 cm long and usually set well back
Species : Dwarf Sperm Whale
Size : Up to 2.7 m long
Fin : More than 20 cm high, strongly curved and most often situated near the midpoint of the body
Diagnostic Features: At sea, size of the whale (up to 3.4 m long), false gill, low and sickle-shaped dorsal fin, rust-coloured fecal stain left by the whale when alarmed.
Stranded Specimens: Present in the lower jaw are 10 to 16 pairs of thin, inward curved and sharp-pointed teeth, whilst no teeth are present in the upper jaw. The teeth have been described as being ‘strongly reminiscent of the teeth of pythons’. The number of teeth makes it easy to distinguish a dead Pygmy Sperm Whale from a Dwarf Sperm Whale K. simus (q.v.).