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Published on May 7th, 2013 | by Yellow Magpie


Melon-Headed Whale: The Deep-Water Dolphin

Melon-Headed Whale Photo By Keith Mullin

Melon-Headed Whales are highly social, odd-shaped creatures. Like the Killer Whale, the Melon-headed whale is actually a dolphin not a whale.

Melon-Shaped Appearance

The Melon-headed whale owes its name to its rather large conical head which vaguely resembles a melon. As with many dolphin species the male is larger than the female sex and also possess a visibly taller dorsal fin.

Melon-Headed Whale Photo By Wayne Hoggard NOAA NMFS SEFSC

Another name for the Melon-headed whale is the blackfish alluding to its dark-grey colour. Its lips are a bright white contrasting dramatically with the rest of its face.

Melon-Headed Whale Diet And Behaviour

Melon-headed whales feed mainly on pelagic(open ocean) fish, squid and crustaceans. As dolphins they are a toothed species with up to a hundred teeth in both jaws.

Athletic cetaceans, Melon-headed whales can be seen acrobatically leaping out of the water. This sight can be spectacular when large numbers temporarily leave the comfort of their liquid environment.

Like many dolphins Melon-headed whales form large pods usually numbering in their hundreds. Highly social creatures, there have been eye-witness accounts of groups numbering more than 2,000 individuals.

Melon-Headed Whale Large Group Photo By Wayne Hoggard NOAA NMFS SEFSC


Melon-headed whales face several threats. Accidental entanglement in fishing nets is thought to pose a problem. However, deliberate fishing in Japan, Thailand and the Philippines is a much larger threat.

It is also maintained that noise pollution and sonar may be a root cause in beaching incidents in shallow waters. It is believed that the beaching of up to 200 Melon-headed whales was caused by sonar operations from U.S. Navy drills off Hawaii’s coast.

Today Melon-headed whales are estimated to number a very healthy 50,000 individuals. They have been classed as least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Vital Statistics

  • Melon-Headed Whales can be up to three metres (ten feet) in length.
  • They can weigh as much as 200 kilograms.
  • Melon-Headed Whales are found in warm tropical and sub-tropical waters although occasionally they venture into temperate waters.
  • They can live to be 30 years old.

Recommended Reading

Visit Wikipedia for more information on the Melon-Headed Whale.

Check out Yellow Magpie’s The Whales: Kings Of The Cetaceans, Fin Whale: The Giant Speedster Of The Oceans and Our Love Affair With Our Favourite Cetacean for further insight into Whales and their cetacean cousins.

Among Giants: A Life With Whales is the fascinating story of underwater photographer, Charles ‘Flip’ Nicklin. Full of splendid pictures and insightful commentary about the whales this book is stunning.

You can obtain Among Giants: A Life with Whales here from Amazon.
For people living in Ireland or the United Kingdom, you can access: Among Giants: A Life with Whales from here.
For Canada: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.
For Germany: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.
For France: Among Giants: A Life with Whales.

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