Feresa attenuata   Gray,  1874 (Whale)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Mammalia

Image copyrights: Doug Perrine

Size: Newborns are about 80 cm long, adults up to 2.6 m. Males are slightly larger than females.

Maximum known weight: 225 kg

Color: The color of the body is dark grey to black, with a prominent narrow cape that dips only slightly below the dorsal fin, and a white to light grey ventral band that widens around the genitals. Also, the lips and snout tip are sometimes white.

The body is slender, though the midsection forward is slightly more robust than the midsection back. The head is rounded and lacks a beak. They have an underslung jaw and white lips, and usually a white patch on the tip of the lower jaw. The skull is asymmetrical and the right jaw is smaller and usually has one less tooth than the left jaw. The teeth are large and conical. There are usually 8-11 pairs of teeth in the upper jaw and 11-13 pairs of teeth in the lower jaw. They have a sub-triangular, long based, high dorsal fin with a tip that points backward. The dorsal fin is located near the center of the body and lacks rigidity, often inclining to the side. The flippers are moderate in length and have rounded tips. It has a groove on the skin of its belly that extends from anterior to the umbilicus to the anus. In both males and females this groove contains the umbilicus, the anus and the genitals.

Little is known about the reproduction of Feresa attenuata. It is believed that males are sexually mature when they are greater than 2.16 m in length and females when they are greater than 2.21 m in length. The summer months are probably when most of the calves are born. Generally one calf is born.

Pygmy killer whales are described as aggressive animals that have been seen snapping their jaws, beating their flippers and flukes on the surface of the water, and growling. In captivity they elicit fear reactions from other cetaceans. They will charge, bite, and snap their jaws at other cetaceans as well as their trainers. They will often kill all other cetaceans that are in the tank with them. Though aggressive toward other animals pygmy killer whales are shy of vessels. At the water's surface, pygmy killer whales are quite acrobatic. They are often seen leaping, spy hopping, tail slapping, and occasionally bow riding. Social groups of this species are usually made up of approximately 25 individuals.

Pygmy killer whales are most easily confused with melon-headed whales, and less easily with false killer whales. Flipper shape(rounded tips in the pygmy killer whale, pointed tips in the melon-headed whale, and humps on the leading edge in the false killer whale), head shape, and the contour of the cape are the best features to use in distinguishing pygmy killer and melon-headed whales.

Synonym (s)
Delphinus intermedius Gray, 1827
Ferasa attenuate Gray, 1875
(Spelling mistake)
Feresa intermedia Gray, 1871
Feresa occulta Jones & Packard, 1956
Feresia attenuata Flower, 1884
Feresia intermedia Flower, 1884
Grampus intermedius Gray, 1843
Orca intermedia Gray, 1846

Common Name (s)
• Pygmy Killer Whale (English)
• Blackfish (English)
• Feresa (English)
• Slender Blackfish (English)
• Pigmy Killer Whale
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Anthropogenic
(Pygmy killer whales have been killed directly in both harpoon and driftnet fisheries and incidentally in various types of fishing gear.)

Habitat:  Open Sea
Trophic Level:  Tertiary Consumer
Prey:  Squid, octopus, large fishes (tuna and dolphinfish), other dolphins
IUCN Status:  Data Deficient


• Tamil Nadu, Gulf of Mannar INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at - http://www.marinespecies.org
  • Marine Biological Station, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (2003) Checklist of marine fauna of Tamil Nadu Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Available at - http://tnenvis.nic.in
  • MarineBio Available at - http://marinebio.org/
  • Jefferson, TA; Leatherwood, S and Webber, MA (2006) Marine mammals of the world World biodiversity database Available at - http://nlbif.eti.uva.nl/bis/marine_mammals.php?menuentry=inleiding
  • Arkive: Images of life on earth Available at - http://www.arkive.org/
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at - http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  • Dr. Ramesh, R; Dr. Nammalwar, P and Dr. Gowri, VS (2008) Database on coastal information of Tamil Nadu Report Submitted to Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Centre, Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Available at - http://tnenvis.nic.in/PDF/coastal%20data.pdf
  • Pillai, PKM and Augustine, SK (2000) A code list of common marine living resources of the Indian seas CMFRI Special Publication No.12 CMFRI 1-115 Available at - eprints.cmfri.org.in/3975/1/Special_Publication_No_12_Revised.pdf
  • Padmanaban P and Dinesh K.P (2011) A checklist of Marine Mammals of India Marine Biology Reginal centre, Zoological Survey of India 4pp Available at - http://zsi.gov.in/checklist/Marine%20mammals%20of%20India.pdf

Page last updated on:2012-11-07

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