Saturday, January 15, 2011
January 15, 2011 : Pygmy Killer Whale
Pygmy Killer Whale
The pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata) is a small, rarely-seen cetacean of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). It derives its common name from sharing some physical characteristics with the orca ("killer whale".) It is the smallest species that has "whale" in its common name. In fact, "killer" may be more apt in the case of the pygmy killer whale than its larger cousin. When a number of Pygmy Killers were brought into captivity in Hawaii and South Africa they were extremely aggressive—even killing one another. A pod captured in Japan did not display such aggression.
The pygmy killer is an average-sized dolphin (a little larger and heavier than a grown man) and may easily be confused at sea with other species, in particular the melon-headed whale. The body is robust and dark-colored. The cape is particularly dark. The head is rounded without a beak. The sides are lighter and the belly is often white. Several individuals have been seen with a white lining around the mouth and chin. The dorsal fin is tall and slightly falcate.
The pygmy avoids human contact. Some spy-hopping, breaching and other active behavior has been recorded but it is not an acrobatic animal.
These dolphins always move in groups, usually of 10 to 30, but occasionally much larger.
Data from strandings, which seem to be common in the species, indicates a diet of cephalopods and small fish. They have been observed attacking, killing and eating other cetacean species such as the Common Dolphin.