False killer whale
|False killer whale|
|Size compared to an average human|
|False killer whale range|
The false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) is a cetacean, and the third largest member of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae). It lives in temperate and tropical waters throughout the world. As its name implies, the false killer whale shares characteristics, such as appearance, with the more widely known Orca (killer whale). Like the orca, the false killer whale attacks and kills other cetaceans, but the two species do not belong to the same genus.
The false killer whale has not been extensively studied in the wild; much of the data about it has been derived by examining stranded animals. The species is the only member of the Pseudorca genus.
The false killer whale was first described by the British paleontologist and biologist Richard Owen in his 1846 book A history of British fossil mammals and birds. He based this work on a fossil discovered in 1843 in the great fen at the neighourhood of Stamford, Lincolnshire. Owen proposed to name the cetacean Phocaena crassidens and, by comparing its characteristics and dimensions, noted a general resemblance to those of the Grampus (Phocaena orca) and the Round-headed Porpoise (Phocaena melas).
The species was regarded to be extinct, until Reinhardt confirmed it was alive while describing a large pod at the Kiel bay in 1861, one of which could be captured, whereas some others were found, the following year, beached on the coast of Denmark.
Population and distribution 
The false killer whale appears to have a widespread, if small, presence in tropical and semi-tropical oceanic waters. There have been a few incidents of these whales being found in temperate water but these are probably stray individuals. Their most common habitat is the open ocean, though they also frequent other areas. They have been sighted in fairly shallow waters such as the Mediterranean Sea and Red Sea as well as the Atlantic Ocean (from Scotland to Argentina), the Indian Ocean (in coastal regions and around the Lakshwadweep islands) and the Pacific Ocean (from the Sea of Japan to New Zealand and the tropical area of the eastern side), and also in Hawaii.
The Hawaii populations are the most studied groups of false killer whales. There are three distinct groups in the islands, an offshore population, a Northwestern Hawaiian Island group, and a small group around the main Hawaiian Islands. This last group is a unique, small, insular population that is genetically distinct from the other populations.
The false killer whale is black with a grey throat and neck. It has a slender body with an elongated tapered head and 44 teeth. The dorsal fin is sickle-shaped and its flippers are narrow, short and pointed. The average size is around 4.9 m (16 ft). Females can reach a maximum known size 5.1 m (17 ft) in length and weigh 1,200 kg (2,600 lb), while the largest males can reach 6.1 m (20 ft) and weigh as much as 2,200 kg (4,900 lb).
Human interaction 
False killer whales are kept in captivity and studied in the wild by scientists. Several public aquaria display false killer whales. For example, Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium in Japan displays false killer whales in the Okichan Theater.A false killer whale and a bottlenose dolphin mated in captivity and produced a fertile calf. The hybrid offspring has been called a "wholphin".
Research to understand more about the species has been undertaken. Scientists have done population surveys, satellite tagged individual whales, and studied carcasses. From these studies they have determined information about habitat, range and distinct populations. Recent study of the local population of false killer whales in Hawaii has shown evidence of a dramatic decline over the last 20 years. Five years of aerial surveys undertaken from 1993 through 2003 showed a steep decline in sighting rates. Group sizes of the largest groups documented prior to 1989 surveys were almost four times larger than the entire 2009 population estimate.
On 30 July 1986, a pod of 114 false killer whales became stranded at Town Beach, Augusta, in Flinders Bay, Western Australia. In a three-day operation, co-ordinated by the Department of Conservation and Land Management, 96 of the whales were carried by volunteers on trucks to more sheltered waters, and then successfully guided out into the bay.
On 2 June 2005, up to 140 (estimates vary) false killer whales were beached at Geographe Bay, Western Australia. The main pod, which had been split into four separate strandings along the length of the coast, was successfully moved back to sea with only one death after the intervention of 1,500 volunteers, coordinated once again by the Department of Conservation and Land Management.
Just prior to sunrise on 30 May 2009, a pod of 55 false killer whales was discovered beached on a sandy beach at Kommetjie in South Africa (latitude 34° 8'3.98"S, longitude 18°19'58.22"E). By 9 a.m. 50 or more volunteers had already arrived to help move the whales into the ocean. Many more volunteers came throughout the day to offer their services. Late morning a decision by the authorities asked all volunteers to stabilize the false killers whales on the beach. No further attempt was made to take the whales into the open sea. At approximately 4 p.m. after considerable debate by all the authorities present, the decision was made to initiate euthanasia by shooting the whales; approximately 44 whales were killed.
The false killer whale is covered by the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS). The species is further included in the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia (Western African Aquatic Mammals MoU) and the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region (Pacific Cetaceans MoU)
In November 2012, the United States' National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recognized the Hawaiian population of false killer whales, which numbers around 150 individuals, as endangered.
See also 
- Mead, J. G.; Brownell, R. L., Jr. (2005). "Order Cetacea". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 723–743. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L. (2008). Pseudorca crassidens. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
- Owen, R. (1846). A history of British fossil mammals and birds. pp. 516–520.
- Matthews, L. Harrison (1977). La Vida de los Mamíferos, Tomo II (in spanish). Historia Natural Destino, vol. 17. Barcelona, España: Ediciones Destino. p. 844. ISBN 84-233-0700-X.
- "False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens)". ARKive. Retrieved January 2013.
- "Hawai‘i's false killer whales". Cascadia Research.
- "Whale-dolphin hybrid has baby wholphin". MSNBC. April 15, 2005. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
- "False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens)". Marine Species Identification Portal. Retrieved January 2013.
- "False Killer Whale". SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. Retrieved January 2013.
- "Okichan Theater". Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium. Retrieved January 2013.
- "Whale-dolphin hybrid has baby wholphin". MSNBC. April 15, 2005. Retrieved 2009-11-12.
- "Whale rescue in 1986 changed not just the people who were there". ABC (South West WA). 2011-06-07. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
- "World watched as WA town saved the whales". The West Australian (Perth, WA). 2011-07-19. Retrieved 2012-07-08.
- "Scores of whales stranded in western Australia A pod of up to 80 whales has become stranded on a beach in Western Australia, the second mass beaching in the country in three weeks.". The Daily Telegraph (London). 2009-03-23. Retrieved 2010-05-02.
- Pitney, Nico (2009-05-30). "Whales Killed At Kommetjie In South Africa (VIDEO)". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2011-12-07.
- Kearn, Rebekah (November 27, 2012). "Hawaiian False Killer Whale Endangered". Courthouse News. Retrieved November 27, 2012.
- National Audubon Society: Guide to Marine Mammals of the World ISBN 0-375-41141-0
- Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals ISBN 0-12-551340-2
- "Beached whales saved in Australia". BBC News. June, 2005. Retrieved January 2013.
Further reading 
- Heptner, V. G.; Nasimovich, A. A; Bannikov, Andrei Grigorevich; Hoffmann, Robert S, Mammals of the Soviet Union, Volume II, part 3 (1996). Washington, D.C. : Smithsonian Institution Libraries and National Science Foundation
- Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
- NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, False Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens)
- Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas
- Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area
- Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia
- Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region