Common Name: Pygmy Killer Whale
General Description: The Pygmy Killer lacks a beak and has a rounded melon. Its body is sturdy in front and more slender behind the dorsal fin. The fin is prominent. The flippers are slightly rounded on the tips.
This whale is coloured dark grey, brownish grey or black on the back. Its sides are lighter grey. There is a small zone of white or light grey on the underside.
A white zone on the chin and the lips – the ‘goatee’ – is often clearly visible in swimming animals.
Size: The Pygmy Killer Whale grows up to 2.5 m in length and weighs over 160 kg.
Appearance At Sea: Pygmy Killer Whales may form groups of up to 50 individuals commonly. Groups seen near Sri Lanka had only a few individuals, however. Herds of several hundred may also be formed. Little is known of this animal, which was first described in 1871, but was seen alive only in 1963.
Pygmy Killer Whales move fairly sedately, breathing roughly once every 10 seconds, rising high enough in the water so that the whole head is seen.
Pygmy Killers have been reported to attack other cetaceans. In captivity, they are aggressive towards humans and other animals, unlike most cetaceans.
Found In: The Pygmy Killer is found in deep tropical and subtropical waters. In the Indian region it has been seen in waters 120 to 1000 m deep. Little is known of this species’ natural history. Captive specimens can be fed on small fish.
Records from India: There are no records from India itself, but it has been sighted a number of times off Sri Lanka and Oman. The animal is also reported to be occasionally caught by fisheries off Sri Lanka and has been seen near the Seychelles.
World Distribution: The species is found in the warm waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Could Be Confused With: There is a possibility of confusion with the Melon-headed Whale Peponocephala electra as both species are of about the same size, shape and colour. They can be distinguished based on the following features:
Species : Pygmy Killer Whale
Fin: Up to 40cm high, with wavy trailing edge
Head : Narrow and smoothly pointed
Markings : Grey flank marking and white goatee
Species : Melon-headed Whale
Fin: Fin up to 25 cm high, with smooth trailing edge
Head : Narrow and curved into ‘parrot beak’
Markings : Pure black above the water
Diagnostic Features: At sea, Blunt head, prominent fin, white goatee.
Stranded Specimens: The number of pairs of teeth in the upper jaw is eight to 11, whilst there are 11 to 13 pairs of teeth in the lower jaw.