Rare San Diego Sighting of False Killer Whales

False Killer Whales La JollaFalse killer whales observed off La Jolla, CA, on February 25, 2015.

On February 24th, approximately 30-40 false killer whales were observed near the edge of La Jolla canyon, a highly unusual sighting in San Diego. This species is found in tropical and warm temperate oceans worldwide, generally in deep water, and a sighting as far north as San Diego is rare. Their presence in La Jolla is likely due to the warmer than usual ocean temperatures occurring this year. False killer whales are one of the larger members of the family Delphinidae; adults range between 15-20 ft and can weigh up to 1500 lbs. They are highly social, long-lived (about 60 years) and well-known for their food sharing behavior.

Researchers from SWFSC’s Marine Mammal and Turtle Division quickly launched a small boat to collect photographs and biopsy samples. The photos will be used in an emerging photo identification project; the tissue samples will further the genetic analysis of the species and assess the pregnancy state and overall health of the sampled individuals.