False Killer Whale Fun Fact – Part II

A whale like a Killer Whale, but false! This whale certainly share some characteristics with the Killer Whale, but they show differences and are not even closely related. They have more in common in their behaviour than in their appearance. The size for instance; the False Killer Whale can reach 5-6 meters, while the Killer Whale reaches 8-9 meters. The False Killer Whale has a slender body with a small rounded head, a long straight mouthline with a body which is almost entirely black; except for some white patches on the throat and ventral midline.



The Killer Whale however has clearly white oval patches above the eye and has a white belly, with a very tall erect dorsal fin. Some of them can also appear with an ‘open saddle’ behind the dorsal fin.


Killer Whale breaching. Source: http://media-channel.nationalgeographic.com/media/uploads/photos/content/photo/2015/01/30/KillerWhale_01_IPredator.jpg


Killer Whale vs. False Killer Whale. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6fEzyM5KAI


The False Killer is also known as one of the species of BLACKFISH, it is the third largest dolphin in existence. They can appear in groups of 10-50 but also up to 300 on highly productive feeding grounds or during socializing. This cetecean -just as the Pilot whales- is known for the many strandings; sometimes 100, sometimes 800 and sometimes entire populations (rare, but is does occur)! It is quite a shame to see them stranded, however this is one of the few opportunities for us to study them. Almost everything we know about this species comes from the strandings.


False Killer Whale stranding. Source: http://media.gettyimages.com/photos/volunteers-desperately-try-to-save-over-100-false-killer-whales-at-picture-id53009226


This species show a less defined pattern here in the Azores, they come and go whenever they want. For example: they show up during spring, then dissappear for a few weeks and then reappear during the summer. We didn’t saw them for a long time and then suddenly 2 of them showed up two weeks ago. They are really amazing to see!




Beside our boat:



Their diving time is actually unknown (the most information comes from the strandings, so it is hard to tell their exact behaviour in the water as they are not seen regularly), but they can dive to at least 500 meters deep. Their diet exist of fish and cephalopods (squid). Then a similarity to the Killer Whale: they are believed to attack smaller dolphins and whales! Even with their small size, they can be quite aggressive. However, it is not known if they are really consuming these mammals which they attack, more information here.


False Killer Whale. Source: https://zoologicalsocietyofauckland.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/image-8-jochen-zaeschmar.jpg


They can be very friendly with boats around them. They are quite curious and interested in us, and thus they sometimes come very close to our boats to check us out! A nice way for us to check them out 😀 Join us on a tour and try to see them for yourself!



Joyce Mulder

About Joyce Mulder

Joyce is student of Coastal and Marine Management at Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences in Leeuwarden. Everyday she was passionate educating Humans, and collecting data for animal research. Joined the TERRA AZUL team as Volunteer Marine Wildlife Guide in 2017, we hope she can get in touch soon to visit us and share updates for this profile.

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