Common Name: False Killer Whale
|False Killer Whale|
Size comparison against an average human
False Killer Whale range.
General Description: The False Killer Whale (or the Blackfish) is slender and long bodied. Its blunt head is small relative to body size. The tip of the lower jaw is usually well behind the overhanging upper jaw. The dorsal fin is tall and may be rounded at the tip or sharp pointed. It is said to be ‘cucumber shaped’. The small flippers are narrow and pointed and have a broad hump on the front margin near the middle, diagnostic of the species.
The body is all black. There is a blaze of grey on the chest between the flippers, and an area of light grey may be present on the sides of the head. Calves are in general lighter in colour than adults, with a larger pale area on the belly.
Size: Adults, Male animals grow to a length of 6 m and attain a weight of 2 tons, whilst females may be 5.1 m long and weigh 1 ton. Calves at birth, 1.5 m long.
Appearance At Sea: False Killer Whales are gregarious animals. They may also associate with other cetaceans. The tendency of the species, like other ‘blackfish’, to mass-strand has allowed close study of their anatomy and other aspects of their biology.
They are very social and are often seen bow riding. After leaving the bow they can often be seen leaping in the wake of the ship. This kind of behaviour in a whale of its size makes it very easy to identify the species.
The schools of False Killer Whales are usually large but these are generally subdivided into coordinated family groups of 4-6 individuals. They blow once every 15-20 seconds. When they breathe, they rise exposing the back, fin, part of the flank and all of the head, often with their mouths open so that the large white teeth are visible.
False Killers groups make audible, drawn-out, high-pitched sounds that can be heard above water. This allows them to be detected at distances of 200 m, sometimes above the sound of outboard engines.
Off Japan and Hawaii, they have been known to take tuna from fishing lines and nets. They are also capable of damaging nets extensively.
Found In: False Killers are known to be oceanic animals, not commonly seen near land, except where deep water is close by. They feed partly on squid. Their large teeth and a wide gape also make it possible for them to catch sizable fish like bonito, tuna and mahi-mahi.
Records from India: The records from India include strandings, catches and sightings.
|14 February 1901||One stranded on beach near Trivandrum.||Ferguson, 1903|
|After February 1902||Two immature specimens measuring 3.5 and 3.2 m (11 feet 10 inches and 10 feet 9.5 inches) recorded at Trivandrum.||Pillay, 1926|
|After February 1902||Adult specimens recorded at Rajakamangalum and Tengapatam.||Pillay, 1926|
|[?]||Recorded by Pearson south of India.||De Silva, 1987|
|27 November 1960||Two specimens stranded at Pozhikara, 60 km south of Trivandrum||Silas & Kumara Pillay, 1960|
|28 July 1975||One specimen stranded at Puthiappa, 5 km north of Calicut.||Lal Mohan et al., 1984; De Silva, 1987|
|18 October 1975||One male stranded at Rameswaram.||Thiagarajan et al., 1984|
|27 July 1976||Two false killers entangled in gillnets off Madhuban, Port Blair; one escaped.||Sivaprakasam, 1980; James, 1984|
|9 June 1977||False killer caught in gillnet off Port Blair.||Sivaprakasam, 1980|
|August 1978||Specimen from Gulf of Cambay, Maharashtra in Institute of Science, Navsari.||De Silva, 1987|
|1978||One caught in gillnet off the Calicut coast.||Lal Mohan, 1985|
|July 1979||One landed at Puthiappa beach, Calicut.||James & Lal Mohan, 1987|
|1982–1984||One male caught off Calicut.||James & Lal Mohan, 1987|
|12 November 1980||A few sightings off the coast of India.||Alling, 1986|
|4 April 1988||Four whales seen swimming in Mandapam Bay, Palk Bay side, were possibly this species.||Anonymous, 1988b|
|5 July 1988||Two whales seen off Mandapam on the Palk Bay side identified tentatively as this species.||Vedavysya Rao et al., 1989|
|6 August 1992||Immature female brought to shore at Veerapandianpatnam, Gulf of Mannar, caught in drift gillnet.||Mohamad Kasim al., 1993|
|1993 [?]||One female specimen caught in gillnet off the Calicut coast.||Lal Mohan, 1995|
False Killers have been recorded in Pakistan, the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Gulf. There are sight records from Djibouti and the Horn of Africa. The species is taken as a bycatch in Sri Lanka, where there have been two instances of mass strandings - one involving 167 animals in 1929 and the other of 97 in 1934.
World Distribution: Found around the world in tropical and warm temperate waters. Occasionally recorded in northern temperate waters.
Could Be Confused With:When the sightings are fleeting there is a possibility of confusion with the Pygmy Killer Whale Feresa attenuata, Shortfin Pilot Whale.
Globicephala melaena, Great Killer Whale Orcinus orca and the Melon-headed Whale Peponocephala electra. They are all dark, with prominent fins and lack beaks. However they can be distinguished as follows:
|False Killer Whale||More than 4m long||Narrow, tapered head||High curved fin||Long pointed flippers with elbow||No markings visible|
|Pygmy Killer Whale||More than 4m long||Square, bulbous head||Broad-based fin||Long pointed flipper with elbow||White visible on throat|
|Shortfin Pilot Whale||More than 4 m long||Square, bulbous head||Broad-based fin||Long pointed flipper with elbow||White visible on throat|
|Great Killer Whale||More than 4m long||Very high fin||Oval paddle-shaped flippers||Short beak, clearly marked off from melon||Bright white spot near eye and white flank patch|
|Melon-Headed Whale||Less than 4m long||Very pointed head||Simple curved fin||Short pointed flippers||White goatee marking on chin|
Diagnostic Features: At sea, Blunt head, high, curved fin, small, narrow and pointed flippers.
Stranded Specimens:There are 8 to 11 pairs of large, conspicuous teeth of circular cross-section in each jaw, which are also often visible in the open mouths of free-ranging animals.
The flippers have a broad hump on the front margin near the middle, which is diagnostic of the species.