The false killer whale is a large dolphin that can be found traveling in tropical waters.
While the false killer whale shares certain characteristics with the orca (killer whale) including its appearance and the fact that it also attacks and kills marine mammals, it is not considered a killer whale or even closely related to the killer whale.
In fact the male false killer whale can grow 19 ft. long and weigh around 5,000 pounds at full maturity while females will typically grow to be 2 – 4 ft. shorter than their male counterparts and weigh up to 2,700 pounds.
Note: Please note that 20 ft. is at the larger end of the scale and false killer whales do not usually grow to be that size or weight.
Physical Characteristics and Appearance
The average size of a false killer whale is around 15 – 17 ft. long when fully matured.
Females may grow a little shorter (1 – 3 ft.) when fully grown and weigh around 2,400 – 2,600 pounds.
When it comes to color the false killer whales has dark grey to black skin and the neck and throat area are lighter grey.
Their bodies are streamlined in design and hydrodynamic to allow for fast movement in the water.
The fins are tapered back to assist with streamlining and their powerful flukes help propel them through the water.
The dorsal fin is tall and helps the large dolphin stabilize itself as it swims.
Diet and Hunting Methods
While they have been observed attacking other marine mammals it isn’t known if they ever consume these animals, however a small handful of observations have led some researchers to believe that there is a possibility of occasional attacks leading to the consumption of other marine mammals.
Attacking other marine mammals such as smaller dolphins may be the result of competing for resources such as food.
Within their own species false killer whales have been noted for their sharing behavior in which they may freely share food within their own pods.
They have also been noted for consuming larger forms of prey than other dolphin species.
When searching for food echolocation may be used to help them locate prey and navigate in dark areas.
Most hunting takes place during the day and these marine mammals may consume up to 5% of their body weight in food on a daily basis.
Habitat and Migration
These dolphins prefer to live in warm temperate or tropical waters and can be seen throughout the worlds tropical oceans.
Despite being a widely distributed species little is known about the false killer whales distribution and migration patterns as compared to other species of dolphin.
Most data regarding this species worldwide distribution and habitat have been accumulated from stranded dolphins found in and around the coastlines.
Observations have shown that these marine mammals are active swimmers and can be seen performing flips and leaps out of the water during certain social events.
These dolphins are also relatively playful and will approach boats and people in curiosity.
With that said people should be cautious and not approach these dolphins in the wild.
They have also been held in captivity at marine parks to perform shows for the public.
Social Structure and Communication
False killer whales tend to enjoy traveling and living in large aggregations.
At times they may be found gathered together with other species such as bottlenose dolphins.
Among groups these marine mammals have been noted for their active nature, fast swimming and breaching behavior.
Communication involves the use of high pitched clicks and whistles, and echolocation may be used to help these dolphins coordinate and locate other members of their pod.
Reproduction and Lifespan
On average gestation the period for the false killer whale (the period from conception to birth) is around 15 – 16 months.
After birth the female whale will nurse her young for up to 2 years.
These dolphins have an average lifespan of 55 – 65 years.
They can often be seen traveling in groups or pods of 10 – 20 although larger groups may form during times of feeding or migration.
When it comes to threats the false killer whale has been known to face several natural and unnatural threats.
Human related threats include getting caught in fishing nets or hooks which may harm the dolphin and lead to drowning, over fishing which can lower the potential amount of prey that is available to the false killer whales and pollution from plastics and chemicals.
Large scale beaching’s have also been observed leading some researchers to believe that loud man-made sounds may be affecting the echolocation and hearing of false killer whales.
In terms of natural predators the false killer whale is believed to be occasionally attacked by large sharks.
10 Amazing false killer whale facts
- Aside from the “killer whale” the false killer whale is one of the only known cetaceans to actively hunt and kill other marine mammals.
- The false killer whale is the 3rd largest animal within the dolphin species after the killer whale (the largest known dolphin) and the pilot whale (the second largest dolphin).
- The scientific name for the false killer whale is, “Pseudorca crassidens”.
- On extremely rare occasions there have been observations of a false killer whale and bottlenose dolphin mating and creating a hybrid known as a wolphin.
- Although extremely rare there have also been observations of a pack of killer whales actually hunting and killing false killer whales.
- As with other dolphin species these marine mammals can occasionally be found held in captivity at marine parks and aquariums.
- False killer whales are able to use echolocation to search for food and navigate the ocean at night and in areas where light does not exist.
- Because the false killer whale is a marine mammal it is warm-blooded, breathes air, gives birth and feeds its young with milk.
- Although these marine mammals are a protected species they have been killed caught in fishing nets and other types of marine gear that were intended for capturing fish.
- Despite being found throughout various parts of the world these marine mammals are not considered an abundant species in any of the oceans they are found in.