Pygmy Killer Whale -- Cetacean Info at Whale Songs

SCIENTIFIC NAME: Feresa attenuata

DISCOVERED: Gray, 1875

COMMON NAME: Pygmy Killer Whale, Slender Blackfish, Slender Pilot Whale


* Distribution poorly known
* Tropical and subtropical offshore waters worldwide
* Seen frequently in the eastern tropical Pacific, Hawaii, and Japan
* No migrations known
* Thought to occur year-round in Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean, and St. Vincent in the Caribbean


* Robust body
* Blue-black, dark gray, or brownish gray body
* Dark gray or brownish cape on upper side
* Sides paler than upper side
* Large white patch on belly- deep groove splits it into 2 halves
* Very rounded head
* No beak
* White "lips"
* Sometimes have a white chin, as well
* Tall dorsal fin- slightly pointed tip- wavy concave trailing edge
* Rear half of body is not as robust as front half
* Long flippers- rounded tips
* Pale gray W shape on chest
* Body may be scarred
* Slight notch in middle of flukes- pointed tips at flukes



* Occurs in deep, warm waters, offshore


* Only information available is that a captive animal accepted live sardines after rejecting squid, saurel and mackerel pike


* Maximum length= 2.87 m (males), 2.43 m (females)
* Length at birth is between 0.53 and 0.82 m
* No other information on life history available


* May be difficult to approach
* Generally elusive
* Known to avoid boats
* May also bow-ride and wake-ride
* May be seen logging- especially on sunny days
* Also spyhops, lobtails, and breaches- although usually not acrobatic
* Lively swimmer- head comes out of the water when surfacing, and the animal leaps clear of the water when fleeing danger
* Pods often swim together in coordinated "chorus lines" and bunch together to rush away when alarmed
* May make growling sounds
* Frequently strands
* Group size of 15-25- several hundred may be seen together
* Groups may herd and attack other small cetaceans in the eastern tropical Pacific


* No population estimates available
* Not abundant in any particular region


* No specific fisheries for pygmy killer whales
* Sometimes taken in general small cetacean fisheries- Japan, the Lesser Antilles, Senegal, Peru and Indonesia
* Few taken incidentally- in gillnets off Sri Lanka and in the eastern tropical Pacific tuna purse seine fishery
* Used as meat for human consumption and some for oil and medicinal