Australia’s False Killer Whales Are Unique from Other Species of Their Kind

Nope. They are not relatives of killer whales or orcas.

The only resemblance that these marine mammals have with orcas is the shape of their skull and their instinct to hunt other marine mammals.

False killer whales belong to the dolphin family and are more closely related to Risso’s dolphins and pilot whales. They are also the third largest in the dolphin family, with males growing up to 19 feet and females about 2-3 feet shorter.

Photo: YouTube/ABC News (Australia)

False killer whales are known to be very playful and sociable. They often approach boats to greet people aboard. There have also been reports of them offering food to divers. But they are likewise fond of taking bait and catch from fishing lines.

These amazing marine mammals are found in tropical and subtropical oceans all over the world. They thrive in groups and have been observed sharing their prey with other members of their pods.

However, in spite of reported sightings, information on false killer whales is limited. Their conservation status couldn’t be determined for lack of data on their population. But Hawaii’s false killer whales have been already placed under the protection of the U.S. government and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Photo: YouTube/ABC News (Australia)

Meanwhile, in Australia, Charles Darwin University (CDU) marine scientist Carol Palmer and her colleagues have made a marvelous discovery! The region’s false killer whales are distinct from the false killer whales found in other parts of the world.

“We now know we have a unique coastal population of false killer whales, and that means we are now at the point where we can actually try to update their conservation status,” said Dr. Palmer. “In Hawaii, where they’ve studied false killer whales for 20 years, they’ve got two populations of 250 and 500 animals, and I think we will find that is the case here for ours.”

With the help of her research, Dr. Palmer hoped that the Australian state, territory, and federal governments would take quick actions and measures to reclassify the false killer whales and provide them with better protection. There are many threats to the region’s false killer whales, including worsening plastic pollution, fishery interaction, underwater drilling and gas development, and climate change.

Photo: YouTube/ABC News (Australia)

To gather support for these marine mammals from the public, Dr. Palmer made a recording of the calls of the false killer whales. She and her friends have started playing the special song, which they call “Sea Country,” at local pubs, which includes an appeal to help protect Australia’s false killer whales and other marine life. Soon, they plan to broadcast the song online to bring awareness to more people.

“We’re hoping music will help to get the story out there that we have these dolphins, turtles, and whales in our northern waters, because it’s the public that will shift [things],” explained Dr. Palmer.

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