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Feresa attenuata

Pygmy Killer Whale

Order: Cetacea
Family: Delphinidae

Image of Feresa attenuata
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Conservation Status: Data Deficient.

Pygmy killer whales are among the least-known cetaceans. These black, white-lipped whales have rarely been kept in captivity: from time to time a few stranded animals have been kept for a few days. The scientific history of this species says much about how difficult it is to build up knowledge about cetaceans. A skull from an unknown location was mentioned in the scientific literature in 1827. In 1875, another skull was described and the species was named. In 1952, a "strange dolphin" was collected in Japan that proved to be Feresa attenuata. Unfortunately, the scientist who received the specimen got it in pieces, but it provided the first complete skeleton and a hint as to what the animal looked like. Finally, in 1963, several more pygmy killer whales were found in Japan. Thereafter, sightings around the world established that these whales live in temperate and tropical waters, may be aggressive, and prey on small dolphins, fishes, and cephalopods. Information from strandings has provided limited data on size and growth. Pygmy killer whales have been seen swimming alone and in large groups of up to 1,000. Tuna fishermen report seeing groups that average about 25 individuals.

Also known as:
Petty Det, Orca Pigmeo

Sexual Dimorphism:
Males may be longer than females.

Range: 2-2.6 m

Average: 140 kg


Gray, 1875.  J. Mus. Godeffroy.  Hamburg, 8:184.


Mammal Species of the World

Distribution of Feresa attenuata

Image of Feresa attenuata
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