Pygmy sperm whale
By: Stephanie Ploen
Edited by: Poul Vendel
Its name origionates from its bigger cousin, the sperm whale, which was named after
the very large organ in its head, known as the melon. It is a yellow waxy
substance and was the reason that the sperm whale was nearly hunted to
The Pygmy sperm whale is dark grey to blue-grey, with a tiny falcate dorsal fin. It
has broad, short flippers located far forward on the body. The head is squarish
in shape with a tiny, underslung jaw and a "false gill" marking behind the eye.
Thus it may resemble a shark when stranded. At sea the Pygmy sperm whale is often seen in small
groups of up to 6, floating motionless at the surface with only a part
of the head and the back and dorsal fin visible. No teeth are found in the upper
This speicies reaches length of at least 3.5 m.
The location in Africa:
The Pygmy sperm whale can be found along the entire coast of South Africa and Namibia,
beyond the continental shelf.
A small amount is known about this species in general. Most information about its
natural history comes from strandings in Florida and South Africa. In recent
years, a number of observations have been made in the wild, mainly in the Gulf
of California, off the Bahamas and in the Phillipines. The Pygmy sperm whale feeds mainly
on squid and few crustaceans and fish. Scallops have been found in its stomach.
When in panic or under stress, reddish brown faeces are discharged, which may
serve as a defense (camouflage) mechanism.
Little is known about the possible impacts in African waters. However,
gillnets may play a role.