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Pygmy Killer Whale (Feresa attenuata)

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


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

Species Description

up to 380 pounds (170 kg)
up to 8.5 feet (2.6 m)
gray with small head and a rounded melon/forehead, relatively large dorsal and pectoral fins
squids and fishes
usually occur in groups of 50 or less, they remain in their birth groups;
generally less active than other oceanic dolphins, they are seen "logging"--resting in groups at the surface

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.


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


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.

Population Trends

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


Conservation Efforts

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: Feresa
Species: attenuata

Key Documents

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

More Information

Updated: January 15, 2015