Blackfish Project

Cetacean Species Known As Blackfish 

Cetacean species known as "blackfish" are a collection of dolphin species that are mostly black and gray in body color. These are among my favorite sea creatures and were so much fun to illustrate! 

About Blackfish

Cetacean species known as "blackfish" are highly social and tend to live in structured family groups or pods. Although many of them may look similar based on coloration, they can range in size from 7 feet (2.1 meters) to over 30 feet (9.8 meters)! 

They are dolphins, but they lack beaks which gives them a look different from the typical "dolphin" look. 


Pygmy Killer Whale

Smallest of the blackfish, pygmy killer whales grow to be 7-8 feet in length. They are shy and elusive by nature and can be identified by their small size and rounded head with white "lip" markings. 

Melon Headed Whale

Slightly larger than pygmy killer whales, melon headed whale adults grow to lengths of 7-9 feet. They also tend to be elusive. Melon headed whales can be identified by their small size, head shape that is more tapered down toward the mouth and white "lip" markings. 

False Killer Whale

Uncommon in the wild, but when they are encountered false killer whales tend to be curious and playful. Their long, slender yet muscular bodies grow to be 14-19 feet long. They look quite different from real killer whales, and were only named for the similarity in skull morphology to the orca. False killer whales can be identified by their slender head, large size and unique flippers with "elbow" like bends. 

Short Finned and Long Finned Pilot Whales

Although quite similar in appearances, the short finned pilot whale and the long finned pilot whale are distinctly separate species. Both are fiercely loyal to their families with close matrilineal associations. They have the same basic body shape with rounded bulbous heads, pectoral fins that sweep backwards and large adult size ranging from 12-20 feet. As their names suggest, the length of their fins is slightly different. Short finned pilot whales prefer warmer and more tropical waters, while long finned pilot whales prefer cold temperate waters. 

Killer Whale or Orca

Largest blackfish and largest of all dolphin species. Highly social and highly intelligent with matrilineal family groups. Easily identifiable with their large size of 18-32 feet in length, and their distinct black and white color pattern. They are dimorphic, with males growing to be larger and have huge pectoral and dorsal fins. An adult male killer whale's dorsal fin can be over 6 feet tall! There are several ecotypes of killer whale, each with different ranges, diets and even variations in appearance- there's enough detail information for a whole another illustration project!

These blackfish are all amazing creatures with a wide range of sizes and appearances. I have been lucky enough to see several of these species in the wild and hope to someday see all of them! 

My illustration of the blackfish family is also available as a poster print