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Pygmy Killer Whale


Scientific name: Feressa attenuata. 
Order: Artiodactyla.
Family: Delphinidae. 
Genus:  Feressa.

IUCN Status

Least concern

Other names

Slender pilot whale.
Slender blackfish.


Small, robust whales that can grow from 2.1 meters to 2.6 meters. They are dark in colour, either black or dark grey, and often have a white streak on their underbelly going all the way along to the tail. Their head is round, and has no beak, and they often white colouration on the lips and chin. The dorsal is till and sickle shaped and is centrally positioned on the back. Their flippers are rounded.

Habitat and distribution

These whales are rarely seen but have been sighted in deep waters in the Bay of Biscay. It is estimated that there are about 40,000 pygmy killer whales in the ocean.


False killer whales are shy, but they have been seen in pods of 1 to 33 individuals. Although they are not generally acrobatic, they are sometimes seen doing breaches, spy hops, slapping the water, and poking their head out of the water. False killer whales have been observed hunting in pods.

Confusion with other species

Melon-headed whale: their forehead is smaller than the pygmy killer whale and they have no white on their chin.
False killer whales: they are much darker and larger, and they have no white on their lips.


Little is known about these animals; therefore, it cannot be said if they are in danger of extinction. They often become entangled in fishing nets and overfishing of prey species is also likely to impact on food availability.

Interesting facts

Despite their name, the Pygmy killer whale is in fact a dolphin and looks nothing like a Killer whale.

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