Dwarf sperm whale

Kogia sima
Dwarf sperm whale


Size: max 2.1-2.7m

Key features:
- Small, robust body
- Square-ish head
- Back is flatter than that of the pygmy sperm whale
- False gill behind each eye
- Simply drops below surface when diving

The dwarf sperm whale is the smallest of the whales and is even smaller than most of the dolphins. It has a square head and moves relatively slowly in comparison to dolphins. It is extremely similar to the pygmy sperm whale and is usually indistinguishable when spotted at sea. Its skin is dark blue to olive brown become paler and sometimes pink on its underside. It has a taller and more pointed dorsal fin in comparison to the pygmy sperm whale.


The dwarf sperm whale raises to the surface slowly and deliberately and then just drops out of sight when it dives. Just like the pygmy sperm whale, when startled, it may produce a reddish brown intestinal liquid which is believed to act like a decoy. They are very difficult to spot in anything but the calmest waters.


Records of dwarf sperm whale strandings suggest that they have a global distribution in deep water temperate to tropical seas. With only two sightings within the European Atlantic it is believed to be rare here. Lack of sightings at sea may be due to the animal being conspicuous rather than rarity.


Threats to dwarf sperm whales include marine pollutants (particularly plastic), entanglement in fishing gear, collision with ships, overfishing of prey species, climate change, as this can alter their habitat and the location of food.


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