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False killer whale 
(Pseudorca crassidens)

These animals are not closely related to their namesakes, the killer whales, and belong to a different genus within the dolphin family. Like all other members of the “Blackfish” group, False killer whales have complex social structures and live in close-knit family groups.

These usually consist of 10 to 60 animals, with the possibility of several pods merging into a large school that may consist of several hundreds of animals.

They are sometimes encountered in the company of other dolphin species, such as Bottlenose dolphins. Similar to pilot whales, False killer whales are also often involved in mass strandings with the largest known stranding involving more than 800 animals. False killer whales have been observed harassing or hunting smaller whales and whale calves.

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General information

Further names: Portuguese: Falsa-orca;  English: False orca

Size of adults: 4 – 6 m.

Prey: Larger fish species and cephalopods; sometimes also marine mammals.

Behaviour: These cetaceans are fearless, fast swimmers that rapidly approach our boats and leap alongside us and ride the waves of our bow. They often stick their heads out of the water, flashing their large, conical teeth. Ritualistic behaviour amongst these animals has been observed, with them carefully passing caught prey to one another before eating it.

Range: Globally present in tropical to warm temperate regions, prefer the deeper waters of the open ocean and tend to occur farther offshore. 

Madeira: Occasionally sighted, particularly in summerautumn. 

Distinctive features: Black, elongated body, with pointed flippers with a typical “elbow”shape. Their narrow black head contains a partially visible rounded beak and their small, relatively slender dorsal fin that is rounded at the end.

Taxonomy: Suborder: Odontoceti (Toothed whales), Family: Delphinidae (Dolphins)

Threats: A generally less well-known dolphin species; no reliable data is currently available on their global population size. In some regions of their range (incl. Japan) they are still actively being killed, caught for captivity and are victims of noise pollution.