False Killer Whale vs Killer Whale: Who Wins And Comparative Analysis


The marine world is filled with fascinating creatures. And there is a lot we are yet to learn about them. Two of such creatures are false killer whales and killer whales.

False killer whales have such a name owing to the shape of their skull, which resembles the skull of killer whales. However, the false killer whales are not studied deeply as killer whales and experts are yet to learn about them fully. Both these are mammals and belong to the dolphin family. 

There are a lot of frequently asked questions that often arise in the minds of marine enthusiasts regarding these two species of dolphins. Sometimes, they can be confusing as well. Hence, this post has been dedicated to learning the differences between false killer whales and killer whales. 

False Killer Whale vs. Killer Whale
Image Credit: Two killer whales jumping out of the water from Pxhere
Image Credit: Pseudoorca Crassidens – False Killer Whale by Stefan Thiesen Buntrabe (CC BY 3.0) from Wikimedia

The primary focus would be given to analyzing various facts associated with their appearance, food habit, habitat, and so on. Finally, we will try to conclude who will win over whom in a potential fight.

So let’s begin with our killer comparison!

Are false killer whales and killer whales real whales?

First thing first, since the name has ‘whale’ in it, are these mammals real whales? Do they share any common aspect with the whales, the largest mammals on earth?

Although they may be called whales, none of these belong to the whale family. On the contrary, both false killer whales and killer whales are different species of dolphins. And killer whales are also known as orcas, the largest dolphin species. 

Despite the fact that both of these dolphins are mammals like whales, they differ significantly. The teeth of orcas and false killer whales classify them as “toothed whales” in the suborder Odontoceti, distinguishing them from baleen whales.

Some other aspects that distinguish these dolphins from real (baleen) whales are the following:

  • Smaller size 
  • Appearance
  • Usage of echolocation instead of whale songs

Are false killer whales and killer whales the same?

Image Credit: Dolphin Ocean Sea from Maxpixel

Although names whales, false killer whales, and killer whales (orcas) are not whales but belong to the dolphin family. So, are these mammals share anything in common?

One of the commonest things between a false killer whale and a killer whale is that both these are dolphins. However, they are not the same, as several differences exist between the two. The following is a tabular summarization that will help get a glace of the difference between false killer whales and killer whales.

CategoriesFalse Killer WhalesKiller Whales
Scientific namePseudorca crassidensOrcinus orca
GenusPseudorcaOrcinus 
FamilyDelphinidaeDelphinidae
SizeUp to 20 feetUp to 8 meters
WeightUp to 4,000 poundsOver 6 tonnes 
Predatory behaviorLessMore
ColorBlack and GrayBlack and white

Will there be a fight between false killer whales and killer whales?

While killer whales or orcas are the largest dolphin species, false killer whales are much smaller in size and weight. Hence, is there any chance of a duel between these two species?

Killer whales are highly predatory and can fight with and prey on false killer whales. However, the latter is aggressive but mostly behaves in non-aggressive ways with other dolphins. In fact, killer whales are also feared by big and vicious sharks like great white sharks, as they can kill the latter very conveniently. 

So it is not uncommon that a killer whale may indulge in a face-to-face fight with a false killer whale. However, it is interesting to delve deep to decipher who will win based on characteristics. 

False killer whales vs. Killer whales: Appearance

It is easy to point out the differences between a killer whale and a false killer whale based on their unique appearance. Let’s explore further.

The orcas’ distinctive black and white coloring is one of the easiest ways to distinguish them from false killer whales with a greyish color tone. These two dolphins also differ in height and weight, with the killer whale reaching up to 8 meters and weighing over 6 tonnes. 

The following are some other notable differences in the appearance of these two mammals:

CategoriesFalse Killer WhalesKiller Whales
Head shapeNarrow heads that taper to rounded snoutsRounder heads
Chin colorGrayWhite
Skin color around eyesGaryWhite patch behind the eyes
FlippersLong curvedLarge wide paddle-shaped 
Dorsal finUnusually curved and slightly rounded on the tipMale: Large triangular Female/ juvenile: smaller and sometimes curved

False killer whales vs. Killer whales: Habitat

Image Credit: Cetacea range map False Killer Whale by Pcb21; Mononykus; Whidou (CC BY-SA 3.0) from Wikimedia

Both false killer whales and killer whales are social creatures and prefer to live in pods. However, exploring their range of habitats is interesting to learn more about them.

False killer whales prefer to stay in all tropical and subtropical oceans, whereas killer whales, or orcas, can be found across all oceans. Orcas are also most commonly seen in colder seas, such as those off the coasts of Antarctica, Alaska, Norway, and the eastern North Pacific Ocean. False killer whales, which live in offshore seas deeper than 3,300 feet, are the polar opposite.

Hence, it is not uncommon to find killer whales and false killer whales in the same oceanic habitat. And they might also cross each other while migrating or hunting prey. 

False killer whales vs. Killer whales: Teeth

Both false killer whales and killer whales are toothed whales, much like other dolphins. So let’s take a deep look at the teeth number and arrangements in these two oceanic mammals.

False killer whales have 44-45 conical teeth. Like them, killer whales also have conical teeth ranging from 40 to 56, with 10 to 14 teeth on each side of the jaw. In addition, orcas have interlocking teeth that can reach 4 inches.

Both these animals have teeth to bite through the flesh of their prey. And it is their teeth that make them top predators of the ocean.

Verdict: Both the equal when it comes to teeth and their usage. 

False killer whales vs. Killer whales: Eating habits

Image Credit: Killer whales and whales from Pxfuel

False killer whales and killer whales are toothed creatures. As a result, their eating habit is adapted accordingly. 

Like most dolphins, these animals mostly feed on smaller fish and squids. However, killer whales have an addition to this, as they also hunt bigger fishes like great white sharks, gray whale claves, fin whales, blue whales, smaller dolphins (including false killer whales), and sea lions. 

It is the eating and hunting style of killer whales that they are counted among the ocean’s top predators, eating at the top of the food chain.

Verdict: Killer whales have the upper hand in hunting prey over false killer whales. 

False killer whales vs. Killer whales: Senses

Dolphins are known to have keen senses that they use to survive underwater. For example, they use vocalizations, echolocations, and so on to hunt, fight, migrate, and so on.

Both false killer whales and killer whales have well-developed senses, including hearing, vision, and touch. They use echolocation to communicate and hunt while being very sensitive to touch. In fact, orcas use different dialects to communicate, and the orca language is one of the most complex animal languages. 

According to a recent study on false killer waves, they use echolocation to “see” underwater, just like orcas. In fact, they can direct their echolocation to a specific target.

Verdict: Both are equally capable of using their senses to hunt and survive underwater.

False killer whales vs. Killer whales: Behavior

Whenever we think of dolphins, we think of friendly creatures. “High gregarious” is the tag that dolphins are often given. So can the same be stated for false killer whales and killer whales?

Both killer whales and false killer whales are social animals. They can form strong bonds, stable families, and social groups. However, there is a difference between the number of group members of a false killer whale and a killer whale group. 

That said, the former usually form sub-groups of a single to a few individuals that form a part of a larger aggregation containing almost 40 to 50 animals. On the contrary, killer whale pods often contain 20 or more animals.

Verdict: Both false killer whales and killer whales have the habit of staying and hunting in pods. 

False killer whales vs. Killer whales: Predators

Both false killer whales and killer whales are counted among the top predators. However, they are not free from their predators. So let’s have a look into the matter.

These animals have some kind of threat from two broadly categorized predators, namely natural and humans.

Natural predators:

Orcas are regarded as one of the most powerful creatures in the ocean. They are considered the ocean’s apex predators. Except for their kind, orcas have no known natural predators. On the other hand, false killer whales have been observed being attacked by killer whales. These animals are also targeted by some larger shark species, which leave them bruised due to the conflict.

Humans:

These animals are rarely hunted for food by humans. Despite this, fishing gear entanglements, a lack of food, ocean contaminants, oil spills, and vessel noises are common killer whale victims. On the other hand, False killer whales are vulnerable to bycatch and ocean contamination. These mammals are occasionally hunted by fishers who see them as an annoyance or a rival.

Low numbers:

False killer whales are particularly vulnerable because of their low reproduction rate, which is reducing their numbers. Furthermore, their rare status works against them when it comes to surviving on the planet.

Verdict: Killer whales successfully place themselves on the top of the food chain, even above the false killer whales.

Summary

So, here we compare killer whales and false killer whales. Finally, we may conclude that both dolphin species are predators capable of putting up a fight. Still, if we are to declare a winner, it would be killer whales or orcas, given their strength, size, weight, more aggressive behavior, and lack of natural predators. It’s also not unusual to hear about killer whales attacking and bruising false killer whales.

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