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  The Mammals of Texas - Online Edition

False Killer Whale
Order Cetacea : Family Delphinidae : Pseudorca crassidens Owen

False Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens).  Illustration by Pieter A. Folkens.Description. A small, entirely black delphinid; no beak, the head slopes gradually from tip of snout to the blowhole; dorsal fin small, narrow, placed slightly forward of midpoint of the back and directed backward; pectoral fins small, about one-eighth of total length and tapering; teeth large, conical, elliptical in cross section, 15-25 mm in diameter, the largest ones projecting 30 mm or so above the gums (40 mm above jawbone), and 8-11 in each tooth row. Adult males reach a length of 5.7 m; females, 4.9 m. Superficially resembles the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala) but lacks the bulbous forehead, and the teeth are nearly twice as large.

Distribution in Texas. Found throughout deep tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate waters of the world. Known in Texas on the basis of two strandings from the upper Texas coast.

Habits. Groups of these whales may number from two to several hundred with both sexes and all age groups represented. These delphinids are known to emit "whistling" sounds audible to humans and probably are good echolocators. They eat squid and fish.

For unknown reasons false killer whales often strand, sometimes en masse. There are three known mass strandings of these whales in the Gulf of Mexico, but the best known such stranding occurred on the Atlantic coast of southern Florida. On January 11, 1970, 150-175 false killer whales beached themselves and refused to return seaward, despite the best efforts of volunteers. All of the whales subsequently died and the cause of this mysterious event was never determined.

Their reproductive habits are poorly known. Breeding probably occurs the year round and the gestation period lasts approximately 15 months. Newborn false killer whales are about 1.5 m in length and weigh 80 kg.

Illustration credit: Pieter A. Folkens.