False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Pseudorca crassidens is a toothed whale and can be recognised as such by the single blowhole and the presence of teeth. It is a member of the dolphin family with a characteristic prominent median notch in the flukes, a smooth crease-less throat and sharply pointed teeth. The false killer whale reaches up to 6 m in length. It has moderately long and slender, bent flippers and small tail flukes. The dorsal fin is tall, large and located on the middle of the back. The head is smoothly sloping without a snout. It is entirely black in colour.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Has been recorded off the west coasts of Scotland, east of the Orkney Isles and north-west of County Mayo, Ireland.

Global distribution



The false killer whale is an offshore species although little is known about their prefered bathymetry.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Slender body up to 6 m in length.
  • Tall dorsal fin located on the middle of the back.
  • Very deepened tail stock.
  • Entirely black in colour.
  • Rounded head with no beak.
  • Flippers bent at the mid-point.
  • Straight mouthline.

Additional information

False killer whales are usually found in pairs or in groups up to several hundred individuals. Their surface behaviour is typical of dolphins with acrobatic leaps and bow-riding are not uncommon. Dive duration is unknown (Kinze, 2002).


  1. Bruyns, W.F.J.M., 1971. Field guide of whales and dolphins. Amsterdam: Publishing Company Tors.

  2. Fletcher, N. & Curtis, D. 1999. Cetacean monitoring in the English Channel and Bay of Biscay, from platform of opportunity, over six years period (1993-1998) European Research on Cetaceans, 13, 210

  3. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  4. Jefferson, T.A., Leatherwood, S. & Webber, M.A., 1994. FAO species identification guide. Marine mammals of the world. Rome: United Nations Environment Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

  5. Kinze, C. C., 2002. Photographic Guide to the Marine Mammals of the North Atlantic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  6. Reid. J.B., Evans. P.G.H., Northridge. S.P. (ed.), 2003. Atlas of Cetacean Distribution in North-west European Waters. Peterborough: Joint Nature Conservation Committee.


  1. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  2. Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, 2017. NBIS Records to December 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jca5lo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  3. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-06-15

  4. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Mammals (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/atlxpp accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Pseudorca crassidens False killer whale. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 15-06-2024]. Available from: https://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/123

Last Updated: 02/06/2008