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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

Pygmy Sperm Whale
Order Cetacea : Family Physeteridae : Kogia breviceps (Blainville)

Pygmy Sperm Whale (Kogia breviceps).  Illustration by Pieter A. Folkens.Description. A small, toothed whale; upperparts, top of pectoral fins, and flukes blackish; underparts and upper lip, white; dorsal fin small, situated posterior to the mid-point on back, the tip pointing backwards; pectoral fin short and "spear-shaped"; blowhole an oblique crescent left of midline; mouth small and subterminal; snout blunt; skull short, broad, spongy, and markedly asymmetrical; left naris large, right one degenerate, as in the sperm whale; front part of skull deeply bowl-shaped; teeth small, slender, and widely spaced, 12-16 in each lower jaw; total length 2-4 m. Measurements of one whale: total length, 3.2 m; snout to anterior edge of dorsal fin, 1.7 m; height of dorsal fin, 76 mm; length of pectoral fin, 495 mm. Weight of adults, more than 300 kg.

Distribution in Texas. These whales are found in warm waters worldwide. In the western North Atlantic they occur from Nova Scotia to Cuba and as far westward as the Texas coast, where strandings occur relatively frequently. These whales were once thought to be quite rare, but stranding records indicate they may be more common than originally believed.

Habits. This is a deep water, pelagic species about which very little is known. They occur in small groups of three to six individuals and appear slow and deliberate in their actions. Low frequency, low intensity, pulsed sounds have been recorded from these whales, suggesting that they may be capable of echolocation.

Their food habits are not well-known. Stomachs that have been examined contained carapaces and appendages of green crabs, shrimp, and beaks of squid.

Information available suggests that mating takes place in late summer and the young are born the following spring after a gestation period of some 9 months. The young calf stays with its mother during its first year, as judged from records of capture of pregnant females accompanied by offspring of the previous year. Newborns are about 1.2 m long and weigh 54 kg. Strandings of these whales may often be related to calving, as females with newborn young often strand, as well as females whose reproductive tract shows evidence of parturition just prior to stranding.

Illustration credit: Pieter A. Folkens.