Common Name: False Killer Whale
General Description: The False Killer Whale (one of the Blackfish) is slender and long bodied. Its blunt head is small relative to body size. The tip of the lower jaw is usually well behind the overhanging upper jaw. The dorsal fin is tall and may be rounded at the tip or sharp pointed. It is said to be ‘cucumber shaped’. The small flippers are narrow and pointed and have a broad hump on the front margin near the middle, diagnostic of the species.
The body is all black. There is a blaze of grey on the chest between the flippers, and an area of light grey may be present on the sides of the head. Calves are in general lighter in colour than adults, with a larger pale area on the belly.
Size: Adults: Male animals grow to a length of 6 m and attain a weight of 2 tons, whilst females may be 5.1 m long and weigh 1 ton. Calves at birth, 1.5 m long.
Appearance At Sea: False killer whales are gregarious animals. They may also associate with other cetaceans. The tendency of the species, like other ‘blackfish’, to mass-strand has allowed close study of their anatomy and other aspects of their biology.
They are very social and are often seen bow riding. After leaving the bow they can often be seen leaping in the wake of the ship. This kind of behaviour in a whale of its size makes it very easy to identify the species.
They are usually found in large groups but these are generally subdivided into coordinated family groups of 4-6 individuals. When they breathe, they rise exposing the back, fin, part of the flank and all of the head, often with their mouths open so that the large white teeth are visible.
They make audible, drawn-out, high-pitched sounds that can be heard above water. This allows them to be detected at distances of 200 m, sometimes above the sound of outboard engines.
Off Japan and Hawaii, they have been known to take tuna from fishing lines and nets. They are also capable of damaging nets extensively.
Found In: False Killers are known to be oceanic animals, not commonly seen near land, except where deep water is close by. They feed partly on squid. Their large teeth and a wide gape also make it possible for them to catch sizable fish like bonito, tuna and mahi-mahi.
World Distribution: Found around the world in tropical and warm temperate waters. Occasionally recorded in northern temperate waters.
Could Be Confused With: When the sightings are fleeting there is a possibility of confusion with the Pygmy Killer Whale and Pilot Whale.
Diagnostic Features: At sea, Blunt head, high, curved fin, small, narrow and pointed flippers.
Stranded Specimens:There are 8 to 11 pairs of large, conspicuous teeth of circular cross-section in each jaw, which are also often visible in the open mouths of free-ranging animals.
The flippers have a broad hump on the front margin near the middle, which is diagnostic of the species.