The Melon-Headed Whale (Peponocephala electra) is somewhat of an oddball. It was originally thought to be a dolphin, but upon further examination in the 1960s was discovered to be a whale. It is so unlike other whales however, that a new genus Peponocephala ('melon-head') was created especially for this species. The Melon-Headed Whale is also known as Melonheaded Whale, Many-Toothed Blackfish, Little Killer Whale, Electra Dolphin, and Melonhead Whale.
Lately Melon-Headed Whales have been in the news because of several mass beachings, the most recent being northeast of Tokyo where ninety-five of the animals swam onto shore. Another beaching occurred in the same area almost exactly a year ago where fifty of the whales were found dead on the shore. Reasons behind these events are still unknown, but Melon-Heads may be prone to large beachings due to their habit of traveling in huge close-swimming pods, sometimes containing as many as 2000 individuals.
Melon-Headed Whales are found in tropical and sub-tropical waters mostly, but have been spotted in all of the major oceans of the world. It is a small species of whale, only reaching lengths of 2.7 meters. Melon-headed whales are black or dark grey in color. A dark dorsal cap extends from the head and widens below the dorsal fin, narrowing again at the flanks. The lips lack pigment and appear to be white, pink or grey. A dark grey anchor shape is located on the underside and extends from the flippers towards the throat. There is a light stripe that extends from the blowhole to the snout tip and a white urogenital patch on the underside. The head has a dark patch shaped almost like a mask that extends from an eye spot to cover most of the head. It has a rounded bulbous head (hence the name) and is often mistaken for a pygmy killer whale or a false killer whale. It falls between the two in size. Melon-heads have almost twice the number of teeth as killer whales however, with over 50 teeth in each jaw. The whales eat squid and fish, only rarely preying on other whales, although they are known to attack dolphins occasionally. They are known for being excitable and aggressive and haven't been successfully kept in aquariums for longer than 17 months.
Little is known about the life cycle or population of Melon-Head Whales. Because of sightings of huge pods of these whales in virtually every ocean, they are not believed to be particularly rare, nor are they likely to be, as they are unattractive to whale hunters because of their size, and too fierce for aquarium collection.