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Dolphin Species: Meon Headed Whale
Peponocephala Electra

The Melon-Headed Whale is a small species, with a pointed, melon-shaped head and slender body. The dorsal fin is high and curved. The body colour is dark grey, bluish-black or dark brown, often with a dark strip that travels from the head to the dorsal and down onto the flanks. Occasionally there is a dark 'mask' on the face. The lips are white, and a dark grey 'anchor' shape (reminiscent of Pilot Whales) is present on the undersides. There are 20-25 pairs of teeth on both the upper and lower jaws. This cetacean reaches a maximum length of 2.75m and a maximum weight of 275kg.

The Melon-Headed Whale can be easily confused with the Pygmy Killer Whale (which is smaller) and the False Killer Whale (which is larger). The more pointed head, and more curved dorsal should be enough to distinguish this species from the above; and, on the beach, counting the number of teeth is a useful recognition tool.

Melon-Headed Whales tend to prefer subtropical and tropical waters, particularly those that are deep and in the open ocean. They are rarely found in warm temperate and enclosed waters.

The Melon-Headed Whale has been seen in all major oceans, and it seems to have a continuous distribution in tropical and subtropical offshore waters.

The Melon-Headed Whale was initally thought to be a Lagenorhynchus dolphin until two North Pacific specimens were examined in the 1960s. In 1966, Nishiwaki and Norris created the new genus Peponocephala ('melon-head') specifically for this species. Not closely related to other cetaceans, the Melon-Headed Whale is generally accepted as an 'outcast' member of the 'Blackfish'.

Local Names: Melonheaded Whale; Many-Toothed Blackfish; Little Killer Whale; Electra Dolphin; Melonhead Whale.

Food & Feeding
Melon-Headed Whales are thought to prey mainly upon squid and small fish.

The typical family unit contains a between 100-500 individuals, and occasionally can reach as many as 2,000. Often associating with dolphins, Melon-Headed Whales are an excitable species and can prove to be rapid swimmers. Mass strandings are common.

Longevity: Unknown.

Estimated Current Population: Unknown, but considered rare.

The Influence of Man: A few Melon-Headed Whales have been taken by Japanese fishermen in the past decades, and many are killed from entrapments in fishing gear. One or two have been taken into captivity, but not for longer than 17 months due to their fierce temperament.


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