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a blurry image of a fish

Pygmy sperm whale
(Kogia breviceps)

Small whales, even smaller than some dolphins. Sturdy body, very similar in appearance to the Dwarf Sperm Whales. They are rarely sighted alive with the most  information originating from dead (stranded) individuals.

They often lie motionless at the surface and only swim very lethargically. Pygmy Sperm Whales have a smaller and more hooked-shaped dorsal fin than Dwarf Sperm Whales but also have their blowhole on the left side of their bodies, emitting a practically invisible spout.

Diving behaviour also resembles that of Dwarf sperm whales; the animals drop below the surface like a stone without raising their flukes. They possess a spermaceti organ and reach sexual maturity at age of 4-5 years;

Special feature: Expel a dark reddish-brown liquid (intestine substance) when startled. The liquid creates a dense cloud that may parry a predator and supports the whale’s escape.

General information

Further names: Portuguese: Cachalote-pigmeu

Size of adults: up to 2,7 m

Prey: Cephalopods, squid, fish and crustaceans (shrimps and crabs).

Behaviour: Very little knowledge on their life cycles and social lives. Usually encountered alone or in small groups.

Range: Tropical and temperate waters worldwide. Prefer seaward parts of the continental shelf; no evidence for migration. 

Madeira: Rarely sighted

Distinctive features: superficial resemblance with sharks; head with very little underslung lower jaw and “false gill” (a light bracket-shaped marking between the eye and flipper),

Taxonomy: Suborder: Odontoceti (Toothed whales); Superfamily Physeteroidea (Sperm whales); Family: Kogiidae

Threats: Climate change, marine waste, increasing underwater noise level. Insufficient data on global population size.