False Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens)
False Killer Whale
Photo: © Robin Baird. Courtesy Cascadia Research. MMPA Scientific Research Permit No. 731
Did You Know?
· Insular Hawaiian false killer whales were listed as endangered in November 2012.
ESA Endangered - Insular Hawaiian
MMPA Depleted - Insular Hawaiian
MMPA - All false killer whales, like all marine mammals, are protected under the MMPA.
CITES Appendix II - throughout its range
|Weight:||about 1,500 pounds (700 kg)|
|Length:||females: 15 feet (4.5 m)
males: 20 feet (6 m)
dark coloration except for some lighter patches near the throat and middle chest
|Lifespan:||about 60 years|
|Diet:||fishes and cephalopods|
|Behavior:||they form strong social bonds, usually found in groups of 10-20; they are known to "strand" in large groups as well; they are also found with other cetaceans, most notably bottlenose dolphins|
False killer whales are large members of the dolphin family. Females reach lengths of 15 feet (4.5 m), while males are almost 20 feet (6 m). In adulthood, false killer whales can weigh approximately 1,500 pounds (700 kg).
They have a small conical head without a beak. Their dorsal fin is tall and their flippers (pectoral fins) have a distinctive hump or bulge in the middle of the front edge. False killer whales have dark coloration except for some lighter patches near the throat and middle chest. Their body shape is more slender than other large delphinids.
False killer whales' breeding season lasts several months. Gestation periods range from 14 to 16 months and lactation occurs for one and a half to two years. False killer whales have low reproduction rates with calving intervals of approximately seven years. Maturity occurs at around 12 years of age and maximum longevity is 63 years.
These whales are gregarious and form strong social bonds. They are usually found in groups of ten to twenty that belong to much larger groups of up to 40 individuals in Hawai'i and 100 individuals elsewhere. They are known to "strand" in large groups as well. False killer whales are also found with other cetaceans, most notably bottlenose dolphins. To increase success of finding prey, these whales travel in a broad band that can be up to several miles wide.
Food sharing has been documented between individual false killer whales. They feed during the day and at night on fishes and cephalopods, and they are known to attack smaller dolphins that are involved in the tuna purse-seine fishery in the Pacific Ocean.
False Killer Whale Range Map
(click for larger view PDF)
False killer whales occur in the U.S. in Hawaii, along the entire West Coast, and from the Mid-Atlantic coastal states south. The species can also be found in all tropical and temperate oceans worldwide.
The current estimates for the Hawaiian/Pacific Islands stock and the Northern Gulf of Mexico stocks can be found in the latest marine mammal stock assessment reports.
- bycatch and other fishery interactions, such as the Hawaii Longline fishery and bottomfish fishery off the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
- hunting in Indonesia, Japan, and the West Indies
False killer whales are classified as Lower Risk - Conservation Dependent on the IUCN Redlist . NMFS funds several research studies on life history and stock structure of false killer whales in Hawaii.
In January 2010, NMFS established a Take Reduction Team to reduce bycatch of Hawaiian false killer whales in longline fisheries. In November 2012, NMFS published a final Take Reduction Plan, based on the Take Reduction Team's recommendations.
In 2010, NMFS initiated a status review in response to a petition to list the insular population of Hawaiian false killer whales as an endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). NMFS published the final status review of the Hawaiian insular population in August 2010. And, in November 2010, NMFS proposed to list the Hawaiian insular false killer whale as endangered under the ESA. In November 2012, NMFS published a final rule to list the Hawaiian insular false killer whale as endangered under the ESA.
|77 FR 71260||11/29/2012|
|Final rule to list the Hawaiian insular false killer whale DPS as endangered under the Endangered Species Act||77 FR 70915||11/28/2012|
|Proposed Rule to Implement the False Killer Whale Take Reduction Plan||76 FR 42082||07/18/2011|
NMFS proposes to list the Hawaiian insular false killer whale as endangered under the Endangered Species Act
|75 FR 70169||11/17/2010|
|Status Review of the Hawaiian Insular Population False Killer Whales||08/2010|
|NOAA Establishes Take Reduction Team to Reduce Bycatch of Hawaiian False Killer Whales in Longline Fisheries||75 FR 2853||01/19/2010|
|NMFS Initiates Status Review of the Insular Population of Hawaiian False Killer Whales as an Endangered Species (90-Day Finding on Petition)||75 FR 316||01/05/2010|
|Petition to List the Insular Population of Hawaiian False Killer Whales under the Endangered Species Act (ESA)||n/a||09/30/2009|
|Stock Assessment Reports||n/a||various|
- Marine Mammal Take Reduction Planning
- NMFS Pacific Islands Regional Office False Killer Whale Information
- NMFS Southwest Fisheries Science Center False Killer Whale Information
- NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries
- Listen to False Killer Whale Sounds
- Watch False Killer Whale Video
Updated: May 13, 2013