Melon-headed dolphin

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Melon-headed dolphin
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Mammalia
Sub-class Theriiformes
Infra-class Holotheria
Order Information
Superorder Preptotheria
Order Cetacea
Sub-order Odontoceti
Family Information
Superfamily Delphinoidea
Family Delphinidae
Genus Information
Genus Peponocephala
Species Information
Species P. electra
Population statistics
Population Unknown (2019 est.)[1]
Conservation status Least concern[2]

The melon-headed dolphin (Peponocephala electra) is a species of dolphin of the family Delphinidae, and found in sub-tropical to tropical waters worldwide.


The melon-headed dolphin is torpedo-shaped, about 9 feet in length, and weighs up to 496 pounds. Females are slightly smaller than males. Unlike a typical dolphin, the melon-headed dolphin has a bulbous head with very little beak protruding, hence the name. The mouth is surrounded by white, light gray or pink pseudo lips. The body is colored blue-black, dark gray or dark brown. The facial area is darker, giving the impression of a face mask, and there is a darker, cape-like patch on the back. An inconspicuous, light gray, anchor-shaped spot lies on the chest, a light gray or off-white on the back of the abdomen. The flippers are long and pointed, the dorsal fin is high and sickle-shaped with a pointed end. The base of the tail is narrow. The fluke is wide with a slight indentation in the middle and clearly concave rear edges. The females have a narrower fluke than the males.

Little is known about the melon-headed dolphin; most of the scientific data comes from studies of stranded specimens. The broad-billed dolphin often jumps out of the water in shallow jumps. The animals form large pods with mostly 100 to 500, occasionally over 1000 animals. Cuttlefish, squid and fish serve as food.

Other names

The other common name it bears, and regularly, is "melon-headed whale", for as seen in profile it bears a resemblance to a small whale, and more so to other members of the dolphin family which are also called "whales", such as the false killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens), pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata), and even larger pilot whales (Globicephala melas and G. macrorhynchus); collectively, the five have been nicknamed "blackfish", giving rise to the name "many-toothed blackfish" for this animal.

Range and habitat

Melon-headed dolphins are found world-wide in sub-tropical to tropical waters between 40°N and 35°S[3]. They are completely pelagic, rarely seen in the vicinity of the continental shelf[4]; however, they are frequently sighted around major island groups with direct access to deep water, such as the Hawaiian Islands[5], archipelagos in the western tropical Pacific[6][7], the Philippines[8], or the Mozambique Channel[9][10] in the Indian Ocean.


Although classifies as "least concern" by the ICUN, the melon-headed dolphin still faces threats from man, through cast-off nets, long-line fishing, the ingestion of discarded trash, fuel spillage, or outright hunting. In September 2019, around 200 dolphins were found stranded on a beach in Boa Vista, Cape Verde Islands for as of yet unknown reasons[11], while at the end of August 2020, 18 dolphins perished on the beaches of Mauritius, which caused a lot of media coverage due to the oil disaster of the freighter Wakashio off Mauritius that had recently occurred[12].


  3. Perryman & Danil, pp. 593-595
  • Perryman, W. L. and Danil, K. 2018. "Melon-headed whale - Peponocephala electra". In: B. Würsig, J. G. M. Thewissen and K. M. Kovacs (eds), Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals (Third Edition). Academic Press