Fun Pygmy Killer Whale Facts For Kids

Oluniyi Akande
Nov 16, 2022 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Pygmy killer whale facts for the giant mammals found in the United States South Atlantic region

Even though natural selection has led to the evolution of so many organisms, there are quite a few creatures that share incredible similarities to us humans. One such mammal that dwells in the ocean is a dolphin.

Researchers suggest that dolphins share remarkable similarities to humans, such as longevity and diseases associated with the aging process, large brain sizes, and conserved chromosomes to name some.

One such species of oceanic dolphin that is very similar in appearance to a killer whale will be discussed in this fact file and is named as pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata). This species of dolphin is very rarely seen and shows unique abilities.

A pygmy killer whale belongs to infraorder cetacea, the order consisting of all aquatic mammals. A pygmy killer whale is scientifically known as Feresa Attenuata and is the inhabitant of the Eastern Tropical Pacific Ocean.

John Gray was the first person to describe this mammal in the year 1874.

But in 1954, it was officially named a pygmy killer whale by a Japanese cytologist Munesato Yamada. This marine mammal belongs to Delphinidae genus, Feresa species, and order cetacea.

The pygmy killer whale is also known as the melon-headed whale. After reading about pygmy killer whales, you can also check out fin whales and bowhead whales for more information. 

Pygmy Killer Whale Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a pygmy killer whale?

Pygmy killer whale (Feresa Attenuata) is a dolphin, given in its name due to its striking similarity with the real killer whale. This marine mammal has a dark gray to the black cape and can measure around 6.5 ft (2 m) in length.

What class of animal does a pygmy killer whale belong to?

Pygmy killer whales are dolphins, a mammal of the phylum Chordata and kingdom Animalia. Pygmy killer whales further belong to the order Artiodactyla and infraorder cetacea, the order consisting of all the aquatic mammals and family Delphinidae, the family of oceanic dolphins.

How many pygmy killer whales are there in the world?

Pygmy killer whales although are rarely sighted, current estimation of their population size shows that 38,900 individuals dwell in the wilderness of the Tropical Pacific Ocean. Although researchers say that the population of pygmy killer whales could be a lot higher or maybe even slightly lesser.

Where does a pygmy killer whale live?

A pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata) is an oceanic dolphin and is mostly sighted in the eastern pacific ocean. Pygmy killer whales move around the ocean from 40 degrees north to 50 degrees south.

What is a pygmy killer whale's habitat?

Sometimes pygmy killer whales are spotted near the shore of certain islands. Pygmy killer whales move around the United States near Hawaii, the Gulf of Mexico, and the western North Atlantic.

This species prefers the deeper areas of the ocean and is very less likely to surface near the shores. Some populations of pygmy killer whales also predominantly live near the Oahu, Penguin Bank, and Hawaii Island.

Who do pygmy killer whales live with?

Pygmy killer whales almost always live in packs of their own kind. Around 12 - 14 individuals may move in groups but mostly 100 or more dolphins move in a group. A pygmy killer whale just like any other dolphin stays in a group from its birth.

How long does a pygmy killer whale live?

Pygmy killer whales usually have similar longevity to humans. But pygmy killer whales are said to live a little less than the other dolphin species. The estimated lifespan of this animal species is around 10-45 years.

How do they reproduce?

Although the data on the reproductive behavior of pygmy killer whales is not really known, scientists say that a male Pygmy killer whale matures at 7.1 ft (2.1 m)  and females attend maturity at 7.2 ft (2.2 m). Each pregnancy leads to the birth of one calf on average.

A calf may measure around 12 in (30.4 cm) at birth.

What is their conservation status?

Although these dolphins are not commonly sighted, their population is considered stable. According to the IUCN Red List, the pygmy killer whale species falls in the Least Concern category.

Pygmy Killer Whale Fun Facts

What do pygmy killer whales look like?

Pygmy killer whales have a strikingly similar appearance to the actual killer whales. They have a dark gray and stout body and the underparts are comparatively very lighter in color, almost white in appearance.

Their head is blunt and the beak is absent. Their jaws are slung and they have a whitish set of lips. Their dorsal fins are centered to the body and their flippers are rounded at the tips and have a moderate length, this is one distinguishing feature of aquatic Cetacea and other members of Pisces.

Both males and females show genitals, anus, and umbilicals. The presence of a post-anal keel is the distinguishing feature between male and female species.

Pygmy killer whale species is similar in sighting to a pygmy sperm whale with large flippers.

How cute are they?

Dolphins in general are very cute, smart, and friendly pets but a pygmy killer whale is a slight exception to this. Individuals may appear really intimidating to many people. Some may find them cute but it mostly depends on the perspective because of their nature and certain physical features.

How do they communicate?

A pygmy killer whale just like other dolphins communicates via sounds. These whales are seen responding very well to frequencies of variable amplitudes.

Similar to bottlenose dolphins, pygmy killer whales also produce clicking and whistling noises and they are capable of growing through their blowholes. Similar to any other dolphin species this species is also able to navigate its environment through echolocation.

This gives us some understanding that the increasing noise pollution in water bodies (for example, the use of SONAR) can cause major harm to these dolphins. It can bring disturbance in activities such as foraging activities, increase an imbalance of certain hormones in their bodies, and may lead to hearing loss in them.

How big is a pygmy killer whale?

Pygmy killer whales can be two-thirds the size of the largest killer whale known. Newborn whales on average may measure a length of 2.6 ft (0.7 m) and adult whales can reach a length of 6.5 ft (1.9 m). The largest recorded length for this species is 8.5 ft (2.5 m).

How fast can a pygmy killer whale move?

A pygmy killer whale just like any other predator is a fast mammal. Studies on some individuals conducted in Hawaii reported a traveling speed of 1.9 mph (3 kph). At a time these whales can travel a distance of 47-65 mph (72.4-104.6 km) in 10 - 21 days.

How much does a pygmy killer whale weigh?

These aquatic mammals are big-sized and are heavy in weight. On average, an adult pygmy killer whale may weigh around 374 lb (169.6kg), nearly seven times smaller than a long-finned pilot whale. The largest recorded weight for a male pygmy killer whale is around 551.2 lb (250 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and female whales of this species have separate names. A male pygmy killer whale is referred to as a bull and a female is referred to as a cow. Males matures earlier than females and they are both comparable in size.  

What would you call a baby pygmy killer whale?

A baby pygmy killer whale is referred to as a calf. At a time a female gives birth to one calf. A juvenile may measure around 3 ft (0.9 m) in length.

What do they eat?

A pygmy killer whale is a carnivore and feeds primarily on squid, octopus, and fish. These whales also feed on small-sized aquatic crustaceans, mollusks, and other invertebrates.

Are they poisonous?

These mammals are not poisonous. Whales do not have any poison secreting glands nor their bite is poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

A pygmy killer whale is a big-sized mammal and dwells in the wilderness of the tropical Pacific Ocean. They are large-sized whale species and require large-sized arenas for holding them.

Gallons and gallons of saltwater are required to hold them. Also trained animal handlers are required to look after this species and besides they are aggressive in captivity so they may not make the best pets to be held captive.

Did you know...

Dolphins show echolocation.

A pygmy killer whale just like any other dolphin shows echolocation that is able to communicate and behave in the wild in response to sounds and frequency. The range noted as the centroid of echolocation is between 70-85 kHz and 30-100 kHz.

This is similar to the bottlenose dolphin. They produce 8-20 clicks per second that have a 192-223 decibel sound level.

There are three types of killer whales found in the North Pacific, these are called resident orcas, transient orcas, and offshore orcas.

As per records, around 168 orcas have been killed in captivity. On the other hand, four humans have been killed by captive orcas as of 2019.

Are pygmy killer whales dangerous?

A pygmy killer whale is rarely sighted in the wild and not many studies are conducted on their behavior in the wild. But in captivity they behave very aggressively and may harm humans thus they are dangerous to a certain degree if fear reactions are provoked.

Do pygmy killer whales attack humans?

A pygmy killer whale is very aggressive in captivity. Reports show that these mammals do attack humans. Their attack may lead to severe injuries and broken bones.

In the wild, there have been no fatal attacks on humans that have been recorded. In captivity, there have been several fatal and non-fatal and fatal attacks on humans by killer whales. A killer whale named Tilly, held captive at Sea World, has killed three humans, which is a record.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these West Indian manatee facts and dugong facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable pygmy killer whale coloring pages.

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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