Pygmy Killer Whale (Feresa attenuata)Species Description
Pygmy killer whales are small members of the dolphin group. They can reach a length of 8.5 feet (2.6 m) and weight of 380 pounds (170 kg).
They have a small head with a rounded melon that extends in front of the mouth and there is no discernable beak. Their dorsal fin is relatively large and tall and is located behind the mid-back. They have relatively long pointed, tapering flippers (pectoral fins). Body color is dark with some small white areas on the lips and belly.
Reproductive biology is poorly known in this species.
Pygmy killer whales usually occur in groups of 50 or less. Both sexes may remain in their birth groups. They are generally less active than other oceanic dolphins; frequently they are seen "logging"--resting in groups at the surface with all animals oriented the same way.
They apparently feed primarily on squids and fishes.
Pygmy Killer Whale Range Map
(click for larger view PDF)
Pygmy killer whales are found primarily in deep waters throughout tropical and subtropical areas of the world. There are three recognized stocks in the U.S.: Hawaii, Northern Gulf of Mexico, and Western North Atlantic.
Current population sizes for the different U.S. stocks are: Hawaii - 817; Western North Atlantic - unknown, only one sighting has been made, but these did not occur during population size surveys; Northern Gulf of Mexico - 410. There are not enough data to determine trends in these stocks. See below for links to the most recent stock assessments for the U.S. populations.
A few are "taken" in drive fisheries and there is some, probably small, bycatch in gillnet fisheries. There is no reported bycatch from U.S. fisheries. Only a few strandings are known.
Pygmy killer whales are considered Data Deficient in the IUCN Redlist . There are no known conservation efforts directed specifically at this species as they are poorly known and have few fishery interactions or other known threats.
|Stock Assessment Reports||n/a||various|
- Listen to Pygmy Killer Whale Sounds
- Hear More from the Pygmy Killer Whale
- Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS-SEAMAP) Pygmy Killer Whale Species Profile
- Hawaii Odontocete Data Biases: Research Study [pdf]
Updated: December 12, 2012