Common Name: Melon-Headed Whale
General Description: Melon-headed whales have an elongated body are 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.
They are uniformly black or very dark grey on the back and sides, 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.
The Melon-headed Whale is one of the species called ‘blackfish’.
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.
The Melon-Headed Whales arch quite strongly while diving, exposing the keel on the tailstock.
They have not been seen to bowride.
Found In: The Melon-headed Whale has a preference for warm waters in offshore areas. They feed on squid and small fish.
Records from India: Reported from the south east and south west coasts of India and the island archipelago’s of Lakshadweep and Andaman Nicobar.
World Distribution: Found in all tropical and subtropical waters of the world, the Melon-headed Whale is rare everywhere except near Cebu Island in the Philippine Sea, where it is abundant.
Could Be Confused With: At a distance, the Melon-headed Whale may be difficult to distinguish from the Bottlenose Dolphin Tursiops truncatus, but at close quarters the absence of a beak would clear up any confusion. 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.