False Killer Whales are becoming a less common sight in the last 10 years on our Kauai whale watching tours between the Napali Coast and Niihau. Total Hawaiian population is estimated at being less than 300 individuals (Baird et al). The long line fishing fleet has taken such a massive toll on these animals that it is rare to find a single individual without scars from interaction with the long line fleet.
The False Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens) is a cetacean and one of the larger members of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). It lives in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. As its name implies, the False Killer Whale shares characteristics with the more widely known Orca (“killer whale”). The two species look somewhat similar and, like the Orca, the False Killer Whale attacks and kills other cetaceans.
This dolphin has a slender body with a dorsal fin that may be more than a foot high. One of the species’ distinguishing characteristics is a bend and bulge (usually called the “elbow”) half-way along each of the flippers. The tips of the tail fin are pointed and the middle of the tail has a distinct notch. The False Killer Whale is uniformly colored a dark grey to black. It grows to about 6 meters (18 feet) long and may weigh 1,500 kg (3200 lbs) when mature. Its life span is about 60 years.
These are social animals, living in groups of 10-50. Fast and active swimmers, an individual may breach or jump clear of the water — often landing on its side with a big splash. On other occasions the dive may be very graceful, leaving little wake at all. It may also emerge from the water head held high upwards and with the mouth open, revealing some of its 44 teeth.
A False Killer Whale and a Bottle Nose Dolphin have mated in captivity and produced a fertile child — apparently this is the first mating between two different species that has produced fertile offspring e.g without postzygotic barriers: They call it a “Wholphin“.