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False Killer Whale

Fin and back

Fin and back

Surfacing and breahting

Surfacing and breahting

Map of distrubution

Map of distrubution


Scientific name: Pseudorca crassidens. 
Order: Artiodactyla.
Family: Delphinidae. 
Genus: Pseudorca.

IUCN Status

Near threatened.

Other names

False pilot whale. 


A medium-sized whale where the males can grow to 6 meters and the females can grow to 4.5 meters. They have a streamlined body with dark grey to black skin with a pale grey underbelly between the pectoral fins. The head is rounded and bullet-shaped with no beak. Their dorsal fin is the mind and has a prominent sickle-shape with a concave trailing edge, and often a rounded tip.

Habitat and distribution

False killer whales are found over deep waters, particularly in the Bay of Biscay. It is estimated that the population size is approximately 57,000, however there is not an exact population number.


False killer whales have been observed in pods of 10-50, though in the Bay of Biscay they are normally in pods of 3 to 7. They are fast swimmers and very agile, often seen breaching, belly flopping, and lobbing their tails. False killer whales have been seen interacting with other cetaceans such as bottlenose dolphins.

Confusion with other species

Females of this species are a similar size but more robust, their dorsal fin is more prominent, and the white patch on their head is very visible. 

  • Pilot whale: similar in size but bulkier with lower less sickle-shaped dorsal fin that is set more forward on the board, and if seen have a domed melon (forehead).


In Japan and the Caribbean, they are sometimes hunted for food. False killer whales are often the victims of bycatch, as they are attracted to the bait and the lines used by fishing boats. They have also been seen with injures by lines and hooks from commercial fishing vessels.

Interesting facts

False killer whales can dive to depths of up to 1,000m and swim at speeds of close to 30km/h.

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