The false killer whale’s apparently playful nature and fast, acrobatic swimming mean that individuals are frequently encountered skilfully surfing the bow waves of sea vessels, porpoising or leaping clear of the water surface (6) (7).
This rapid locomotion also makes the false killer whale a highly efficient predator, and it feeds on an array of different prey items. Depending on its location, the prey of this species may include squid and a variety of large pelagic fish, including several species of tuna, wahoo (Acanthocybium solandri) and mahi mahi (Coryphaena hippurus) (5) (9). Groups of false killer whales have also been observed feeding on smaller dolphins being released from purse seine nets and harassing or possibly attacking humpback and sperm whales (4) (5) (6).
A highly social species, the false killer whale usually forms groups of between 10 and 50 individuals of mixed sex and age. However, these may occasionally merge into large aggregations of several hundred animals (6). Individuals appear to communicate extensively by producing an incredibly diverse array of clicks and whistles (2). Sound is also employed by the false killer whale in the form of echolocation, which is used to sense its environment and locate prey (4). The false killer whale has been found to develop long-term social bonds and to share prey with its companions, or even sometimes with humans (8).
The false killer whale is believed to breed throughout the year, but births may peak at different times depending on the location (2). After a gestation period of about 15.5 months, the calf is born measuring up to 2 metres in length. For the first 18 to 24 months, the calf is fed on milk (2).
The female false killer whale is though to reach sexual maturity at 8 to 11 years, while the male may mature slightly later (2). The lifespan of the false killer whale is not well known, but estimates based on ageing individuals by their teeth give a maximum age of at least 62 years for females and 57 years for males (4).