Six Whales That Are Actually Dolphins

A false killer whale jumping in the water.
A false killer whale jumping in the water.

Animals are sometimes given names that relate to other animals despite a lack of a genetic relationship. Dolphins are members of the order Cetacea, and other animals in the order include porpoises and whales. Due to their close biological relationship, some dolphins are named as whales while in the real sense they are actually dolphins. These dolphins bearing names of whales all belong to the family Delphinidae. The six dolphins are also referred as blackfish. Whales and dolphins have significant differences including the larger size of whales compared to that of dolphin. Dolphins are friendlier to humans than whales.

6. Melon-headed whale

The melon-headed whale is the most common dolphin found in the deep tropical waters. The dolphin has a roundish conical head with a dark grey face and a light grey body. The melon-headed whale has long pointed flippers and a pointed tip on its tall dorsal fin. Adult melon-headed whales may reach a length of 3.3ft and weigh more than 440lbs. The melon-headed whale has an average lifespan of 20 years, which may reach 30 years for females. The melon-headed whale is a social animal often found in groups of about 100, and sometimes the group may have up to 1000 individuals. Within these groups, the dolphin may swim in smaller groups of up to 14 individuals. The melon-headed whale occupies mainly the tropical waters found between latitude 20°N and 20°S. The whale swims fast especially when upset. The whale may come near the surface to rest and sometimes to spy hopping. The whale feeds mainly on squids.

5. Killer whale

The killer whale is an oceanic dolphin found in almost all seas and oceans of the world. The killer whale feeds on a variety of marine animals and is one of the apex predators. Killer whales have highly sophisticated techniques for hunting and behaviors that are passed down through the generations among various family groups. Killer whales are social dolphins living in matrilineal family groups known as pods. The killer whale is grouped into three distinct types depending on certain behaviors. These groups include resident, transient, and offshore whales. Resident killer whales occupy mainly the northeast Pacific coastal waters. Resident killer whales feed chiefly on fish and sometimes on squid. Transients are also known as Bigg's killer whales. Transient killer whales have a black coloration on the saddle patch, the area around the dorsal fin. The diet of transient killer whales is mainly marine mammals. Offshore killer whales live within groups of 20 to 75 individuals and move away from the shore to feed on schooling fish. The similarity of their dorsal fin to that of transients suggests that they also feed on other marine mammals. Offshore killer whales are generally smaller than resident and transient killer whales.

4. Pygmy killer whale

Pygmy killer whales are an oceanic dolphin that bears a close resemblance to killer whales. However, pygmy killer whales are rarer and avoid human contact. Their body color is mainly dark grey or black with light grey side and white color around the genitals and at the end of its pinkish snout. The pygmy killer whales move in relatively smaller groups which on average have about 20-30 members. Pygmy killer whales are relatively slower while on the surface and less active. They do not fully take their heads out of the water neither do they spy hop. The diet of the pygmy killer whale is made up of small fish, cephalopods and other members of the cetacean order. The pygmy killer whales prefer dwelling in deeper waters of a depth of between 1600 and 6500ft. They grow to an average length f about 6.5ft. The dorsal fin of the pygmy killer whale has rounded tip, and it is easily confused with other dolphin species especially the false killer whale and the melon-headed whale.

3. False killer whale

The false killer whale is an oceanic dolphin found primarily in temperate and tropical waters worldwide. Populations have been sighted in the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific oceans as well as in the red and Mediterranean seas. The false killer whale bears a close resemblance to the killer whale in both appearance and dietary habits. The false killer whale has a slender and tapered head and a slender body that grows to an average length of 16ft with larger males growing up to 20ft long and 17ft long in the larger females. Larger females may weigh 2600lbs and 4900lbs in larger males.The size of the false killer whale makes it the third largest of the dolphins.

2. Long-finned pilot whale

The long-finned pilot whale is an oceanic dolphin with unusually long pectoral fins. The long-finned pilot whale is a large dolphin that grows to a maximum length of about 19ft in females and 22ft in males. Their weight ranges between 2,900lbs to 5,070lbs for larger females and males respectively. Their bodies are predominantly dark grey or black with white or light grey areas on the throat and belly. Like most dolphins, the long-finned killer whale is a social animal found mainly in groups of 20-150 individuals; sometimes, they move in groups of more than 1000 members. It depicts signs of a matrilineal social structure within their groups. The whale also interacts with other dolphins such as the common bottlenose dolphin. Their diet consists primarily of cephalopods while others also feed on squids and fish. Some of the activities the long-finned pilot whales engage in include lobtailing, breaching, and spy hopping.

1. Short-finned pilot whale

Short-finned pilot whales are oceanic dolphins bearing a close resemblance to the long-finned pilot whales. However, they have shorter pectoral fins compared to the long-finned pilot whale. Their bodies are also stockier. Their body is dark grey or black with a white cape and grey to white patches on the throat and belly. They have a bulbous head with 14 to 18 teeth on each jaw. Adult males have an average length of 18ft and 12ft in females. The average weight for adults is between 2200lbs and 6600lbs. They have a long lifespan of about 45 years. Females may, however, reach 60 years. Older females tend to undergo menopause. The short-finned pilot whale is a social dolphin that rarely isolates itself. The whale stays in groups of between 10 and 30 individuals with some groups having up to 50 members. The whales have been sighted lobtailing and spy hopping.


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