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Melon-headed Whale (Peponocephala electra)

Status | Species Description | Habitat | Distribution | Population Trends | Threats | Conservation Efforts | Regulatory Overview | Taxonomy | Key Documents | More Info


MMPA - Melon-headed whales, like all marine mammals, are protected under the MMPA.
CITES Appendix II - throughout its range

Species Description

460 pounds (210 kg)
9 feet (2.7 m)
dark gray with a small head and no discernable beak
22 years for males;
30 years for females
squids, fishes, and some crustaceans
often occur in groups of hundreds to over 1,000 animals

Melon-headed whales are small members of the dolphin group. They can reach a length of 9 feet (2.7 m) and weight of 460 pounds (210 kg).

They have a small head with a rounded melon and no discernable beak. Their dorsal fin is relatively large and they have pointed, tapering flippers (pectoral fins). Body color is dark with a large dorsal cape and dark areas on the side of the face that are not always readily apparent.

Females have gestation periods of approximately 12 months. Lactation period and many other reproductive facts are poorly known. Longevity is 22 years for males and 30 years for females.

Melon-headed whales often occur in groups of hundreds to over 1,000 animals. Smaller, coordinated subgroups are common within the larger groups. They are often found on the edge of, or behind, schools of Fraser's dolphins.

They feed primarily on squids, fishes, and some crustaceans in moderately deep water.


They prefer deeper areas of warmer tropical waters where their prey are concentrated.


Melon-headed whales are found primarily in deep waters throughout tropical areas of the world.

Population Trends

The most recent stock assessment reports with population estimates are available on our website.


Conservation Efforts

melon-headed whale. (c) alison cohan.
Melon-headed Whale
(Peponocephala electra)
Photo: © Alison Cohan, Pacific Whale Foundation

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.

Regulatory Overview

This species is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 as amended.


Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
Family: Delphinidae
Genus: Peponocephala
Species: electra

Key Documents

(All documents are in PDF format.)
Title Federal Register Date
Stock Assessment Reports n/a various

More Information

Updated: January 15, 2015