Feresa attenuata


Pygmy killer whales are one of the least known of all the delphinids and are often confused with the melon-headed whale and the false killer whale, due to their similarity in general appearance.


Physical description and behaviour:

The species is a relatively small whale with adults up to 2.6 m, with a rounded almost bulbous head and no beak. Its snout and lips are white and its fins long with rounded ends. The species' body is slender, black or dark grey and tapers behind the tall and recurved dorsal fin.

Pygmy killer whales occur mainly offshore in deep waters, although they can be seen on occasion in groups of several hundred animals. They are thought to feed on octopus, squid and fish in the southern Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans although there is a gap in knowledge of this topic especially in north Atlantic due to their rare sightings.


Distribution and abundance:

They are usually found in tropical and subtropical waters of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Ocean and rarely occur north of 40°N. Their main range is well to the south of the ASCOBANS Agreement Area, but two sighting records were reported in April 1997 from the southern Bay of Biscay (Williams, Williams & Brereton, 2002).


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ Assessment

  • LC (Least Concern) globally, last assessed in 2017


Assessment information
CMS InstrumentsASCOBANS, ACCOBAMS, Western African Aquatic Mammals, Pacific Islands Cetaceans
IUCN StatusLeast concern

No pictures for Feresa attenuata

Common names
EnglishPygmy Killer Whale
Scientific name Feresa attenuata
Other details
Additional notesUpdates have been made in August 2021 as per European Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises by Peter G. H. Evans (2020) unless stated otherwise.