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Home / News / General / Hawaii’s cetaceans

Hawaii’s cetaceans

By: Denver Leaman

Dwarf Sperm Whale

Dwarf Sperm Whale (Kogia simus)
Suborder: Odonticeti Family: Physeteridae
Occurs in Hawaiian waters.

Other known names:

Owen's pygmy sperm whale

Identity keys to use in the field:

Robust body, small size, square shaped head, dark wrinkly skin, false gill behind each eye, slow and deliberate swimmer, may float motionless at the surface, simply drops below the water surface.

General description and habits:

Dwarf sperm whales are the smallest of all the whales and are even smaller than some dolphin species. They often don't grow longer than 2.5m. Generally, they live a long way from the shore and are rarely seen at sea. They are amazingly similar to pygmy sperm whales and this makes them difficult to tell apart. Dwarf sperm whales are bluish gray or dark gray-black, with square shaped heads. Their snouts are slightly pointed and overlap their tiny lower jaws that contain 14 to 26 very sharp, long and curved teeth. This means that stranded individuals can look a little like sharks. Their dorsal fins have a broad base with a pointed tip, the flukes are broad with pointed tips, and their flippers are short and broad. Their blowholes are positioned slightly to the left. When they are born, dwarf sperm whales are about 1 meter (39in) long. They grow to only between 2.1 and 2.7 meters (7 - 9ft). Newborn dwarf sperm whales weigh between 40 and 50kg (90 - 110lb) and adults weigh between 135 and 275 kg (300 - 605 lb). Like pygmy sperm whales, dwarf sperm whales rise slowly to the surface and drop out of sight rather than diving. They don't seem to approach boats, though they are sometimes seen basking on the surface and may allow boats to approach them. Some records note that, when resting on the surface, they float lower in the water than pygmy sperm whales. They probably travel in groups of less than 10.


Mainly squid but will eat fish and crustaceans.


Dwarf sperm whales live in deep water possible concentrated along the edges of the continental shelf. They prefer warmer waters.

Population estimates:



Environmental changes.

Hawaii’s cetaceans
  • Humpback whales
  • Striped Dolphin
  • Spinner Dolphin
  • Baird’s Beaked Whale
  • Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Blainville's Beaked Whale
  • Bryde's Whale
  • Cuvier's Beaked Whale
  • Dwarf Sperm Whale
  • False Killer Whale
  • Fin Whale
  • Killer Whale
  • Melon-headed Whale
  • Minke Whale
  • Northern Right Whale
  • Pygmy Killer Whale
  • Pygmy Sperm Whale
  • Risso's Dolphin
  • Rough-toothed Dolphin
  • Short-finned Pilot Whale
  • Sperm Whale
  • Spotted Dolphin



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