Drawing by Graham Sanders
Pygmy Killer Whales look like a miniature version of the False Killer Whale, reaching 2-3m in length. It can be distinguished by its smaller size and white lips and snout. Their body narrows towards the dorsal fin which is how it gets its name (attenuate) which means thinning. They are generally black or grey with a high, sickle-shaped dorsal fin. They have a paler grey area on each side and a white patch between the flippers. They reach up to 2.6m in length and just over 200kg. As a tropical deep water species this is unlikely to be seen in Tasmanian waters. They can sometimes be confused with the Melon-headed Whale but their smaller size and rounded flippers and beakless head should help separate them.
Pygmy Killer Whales swim in groups of up to 50 animals and occasionally with dolphins. They reach maturity at about 2m and live at least 14 years. They eat squid and fish and have been known to take dolphins. In New South Wales they may be seen between August and February but are rarely seen in Tasmania.
There are some stranding records of pygmy killer whales from several Australian states, including one from Tasmania. They are single stranders and often infested with nematodes.