Kogia sima 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Cetartiodactyla Physeteridae

Scientific Name: Kogia sima (Owen, 1866)
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English Dwarf Sperm Whale
French Cachalot nain
Spanish Cachalote Enano
Kogia simus (Owen, 1866)
Taxonomic Notes: This taxonomic unit is treated as one species even though there is genetic evidence to suggest that there may be two separate species of Dwarf Sperm Whales, one in the Atlantic and one in the Indo-Pacific (Chivers et al. 2005). If confirmed, the Red List Category of this taxon may change.

Because this species was not generally recognized until the mid-1960s, there is still some confusion in the older literature about which species of Kogia is represented. The specific name, simus, was recently changed to sima to reflect proper gender.

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Data Deficient ver 3.1
Year Published: 2012
Date Assessed: 2008-07-01
Assessor(s): Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J.K.B., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L.
Reviewer(s): Hammond, P.S. & Perrin, W.F.
There is considerable uncertainty about the status of this species, which may span a range from Least Concern to a more threatened category. It is fairly abundant but there is no information on trends in global abundance. This species is potentially vulnerable to low-level threats and a 30% global reduction over three generations (36 years; Taylor et al. 2007) cannot be ruled out.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:This species appears to be distributed widely in offshore waters of tropical and warm temperate zones, apparently preferring warmer waters, and perhaps more offshore waters (Caldwell and Caldwell 1989). A single record exists for the Mediterranean; this is considered extralimital. The species occurs in the Sea of Japan and in the Persian Gulf.

Its distribution shows somewhat more of a preference for warmer waters than does that of the Pygmy Sperm Whale; this species probably does not range as far into high-latitude waters.

There are two problems in trying to establish ranges for Kogia spp. First, members of this genus are only rarely identified at sea (and then usually not to species), and second, it is only recently that the two species have been clearly recognized as separate. As a consequence, most reliable records of either species are based on stranded individuals or occasionally on those taken in small fisheries for small cetaceans (Nagorsen 1985; Caldwell and Caldwell 1989; McAlpine 2002).

The map shows where the species may occur based on oceanography. The species has not been recorded for all the states within the hypothetical range as shown on the map. States for which confirmed records of the species exist are included in the list of native range states. States within the hypothetical range but for which no confirmed records exist are included in the Presence Uncertain list.
Countries occurrence:
American Samoa; Angola; Anguilla; Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Aruba; Australia; Bahamas; Bahrain; Bangladesh; Barbados; Belize; Benin; Bermuda; Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (Saba, Sint Eustatius); Brazil (Rio Grande do Sul); British Indian Ocean Territory; Brunei Darussalam; Cambodia; Cameroon; Canada (British Columbia); Cape Verde; Cayman Islands; Chile (Valparaíso); China; Christmas Island; Cocos (Keeling) Islands; Colombia; Comoros; Congo; Congo, The Democratic Republic of the; Cook Islands; Costa Rica; Côte d'Ivoire; Cuba; Curaçao; Djibouti; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador (Galápagos); El Salvador; Equatorial Guinea; Fiji; French Guiana; French Polynesia; Gabon; Gambia; Ghana; Gibraltar; Grenada; Guadeloupe; Guam; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Hong Kong; India; Indonesia; Iran, Islamic Republic of; Jamaica; Japan (Honshu); Kenya; Kiribati; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait; Liberia; Madagascar; Malaysia; Maldives; Marshall Islands; Martinique; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mayotte; Mexico; Micronesia, Federated States of ; Montserrat; Morocco; Mozambique; Myanmar; Namibia; Nauru; New Caledonia; New Zealand (Kermadec Is., North Is.); Nicaragua; Nigeria; Niue; Norfolk Island; Northern Mariana Islands; Oman; Pakistan; Palau; Panama; Papua New Guinea; Peru; Philippines; Pitcairn; Portugal (Azores, Madeira); Puerto Rico; Qatar; Réunion; Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Martin (French part); Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Samoa; Sao Tomé and Principe; Senegal; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Sint Maarten (Dutch part); Solomon Islands; Somalia; South Africa; Spain (Canary Is.); Sri Lanka; Suriname; Taiwan, Province of China; Tanzania, United Republic of; Thailand; Timor-Leste; Togo; Tokelau; Tonga; Trinidad and Tobago; Turks and Caicos Islands; Tuvalu; United Arab Emirates; United States (Hawaiian Is.); Uruguay; Vanuatu; Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of; Viet Nam; Virgin Islands, British; Virgin Islands, U.S.; Wallis and Futuna; Western Sahara; Yemen
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – western central; Atlantic – eastern central; Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – northwest; Atlantic – southeast; Atlantic – southwest; Indian Ocean – western; Indian Ocean – eastern; Pacific – western central; Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northeast; Pacific – southeast; Pacific – northwest; Pacific – southwest
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:No estimates of global abundance exist. Abundance is often underestimated using visual survey methods because they dive for long periods and are inconspicuous when they surface (Barlow 1999). Delineations between stocks are often difficult to determine, therefore assessments should be considered ongoing processes. In the case of the Dwarf Sperm Whale, concern that sightings may be confused with or for the congener K. breviceps (the Pygmy Sperm Whale) further complicates interpretation of past estimates of abundance.

There are estimated to be about 19,172 (CV=66%) off Hawaii (Barlow 2006); 742 of both species of Kogia (CV=29%) in the northern Gulf of Mexico (Mullin and Fulling 2003); 395 of both species (CV=40/75%) in the western North Atlantic (Waring et al. 2006); and about 11,200 (CV=29%) in the eastern tropical Pacific (Wade and Gerrodette 1993). Using corrections for missed animals, Ferguson and Barlow (2001) re-estimated the abundance as approximately 150,000 of both species in the eastern tropical Pacific. There is evidence of site fidelity for individuals off the island of Hawaii (Baird et al. 2006), suggesting that within-basin population structure may exist.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Dwarf Sperm Whales appear to feed primarily on deep-water cephalopods, but also take other prey types (dos Santos and Haimovici 2001). About 38 different prey species are known from South African waters (Ross 1979).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: This species is hunted at a low level.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): Although never hunted commercially, these animals were sometimes harpooned by 19th-century whalers. Dwarf Sperm Whales were taken in a small harpoon fishery for Pilot Whales at St. Vincent in the Lesser Antilles, in Japan, and occasionally in an aboriginal fishery on Lamalera Island in Indonesia, and have also been reported from fish markets in Sri Lanka (Caldwell and Caldwell, 1989). This species is also taken occasionally by harpoon off Taiwan (J. Wang pers. comm.).

A few Dwarf Sperm Whales are known to have died incidentally in fisheries throughout their range. When taken in commercial fisheries the numbers are so few that it is considered a rare bycatch. Zerbini and Kotas (1998) reported some bycatch in the Brazilian driftnet fishery.

Both Kogia species have been reported with plastic bags in their stomachs that may have prevented digestion of food and ultimately brought death. Perhaps the textural or visual quality of the plastic was similar to that of squid and thus enticed the whales to devour it (Caldwell and Caldwell 1989).

In general, there are not known to be any serious human impacts, and subpopulations are probably relatively less affected by human activities than are those of most other cetaceans (Caldwell and Caldwell 1989).

While impacts of high levels of anthropogenic sound have been well documented only for Beaked Whales (Simmonds and Lopez-Jurado 1991, Frantzis 1998, Balcomb and Claridge 2001, US Dept of Commerce and US Navy 2001, Jepson et al. 2003, Fernandez et al. 2005), there are examples for a number of other species of odontocetes of potential impacts. While conclusive evidence of cause and effect are often lacking, strong avoidance reactions, embayments or mass stranding events have been spatially and temporally associated with high levels of anthropogenic sound for Short-finned Pilot Whales (Hohn et al. 2006), Melon-headed Whales (Southall et al. 2006), Atlantic Spotted Dolphin (Balcomb and Claridge 2001), Dwarf Sperm Whales (Hohn et al. 2006), and Dall’s Porpoise (Balcomb pers. comm.). It should be recognized that high levels of anthropogenic sound have the potential to impact all deep diving odontocete species.

In 2005, a large series of unusual stranding events over about three weeks in and around Taiwan included at least 13 Dwarf Sperm Whales, many of which were live strandings (Wang and Yang 2006, Yang et al. 2008). It is unknown if high-intensity anthropogenic sounds resulted in these strandings. However, “bubble-like lesions” were reported in some individuals by Yang et al. (2008). There are high levels of unexplained strandings in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast of Florida that warrant concern (Waring et al. 2006).

Predicted impacts of global climate change on the marine environment may affect Dwarf Sperm Whales, although the nature of impacts is unclear (Learmonth et al. 2006).

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: The species is listed in Appendix II of CITES. Research is needed to determine the impact of threats on this species.

Classifications [top]

10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.1. Marine Oceanic - Epipelagic (0-200m)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.2. Marine Oceanic - Mesopelagic (200-1000m)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes
10. Marine Oceanic -> 10.3. Marine Oceanic - Bathypelagic (1000-4000m)
suitability:Suitable  major importance:Yes

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
  Included in international legislation:Yes
  Subject to any international management/trade controls:Yes
11. Climate change & severe weather -> 11.5. Other impacts
♦ timing:Future    

9. Pollution -> 9.6. Excess energy -> 9.6.3. Noise pollution
♦ timing:Ongoing    
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.2. Species disturbance

1. Research -> 1.2. Population size, distribution & trends
1. Research -> 1.5. Threats
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Baird, R. W., Schorr, G. S., Webster, D. L., Mcsweeney, D. J. and Mahaffy, S. D. 2006. Studies of beaked whale diving behavior and odontocete stock structure in Hawai'i in March/April 2006.

Balcomb, K. C. and Claridge, D. E. 2001. A mass stranding of cetaceans caused by naval sonar in the Bahamas. Bahamas Journal of Science 8(2): 2-12.

Barlow, J. 1999. Trackline detection probability for long-diving whales. In: G. W. Garner, S. C. Amstrup, J. L. Laake, B. J. F. Manley, L. L. McDonald and D. G. Robertson (eds), Marine mammal survey and assessment methods, pp. 209-221. Balkema Press, Netherlands.

Barlow, J. 2006. Cetacean abundance in Hawaiian waters estimated from a summer/fall survey in 2002. Marine Mammal Science 22(2): 446-464.

Caldwell, D. K. and Caldwell, M. C. 1989. Pygmy sperm whale Kogia breviceps (de Blainville, 1838): Dwarf sperm whale Kogia simus Owen, 1866. In: S. H. Ridgway and R. Harrison (eds), Handbook of marine mammals, Vol. 4: River dolphins and the larger toothed whales, pp. 234-260. Academic Press.

Chivers, S. J., Leduc, A. E., Robertson, K. M., Barros, N. B. and Dizon, A. E. 2005. Genetic variation in Kogia spp., with preliminary evidence for two species of Kogia sima. Marine Mammal Science 21(4): 619-634.

dos Santos, RA. and Haimovici, M. 2001. Cephalopods in the diet of marine mammals stranded or incidentally caught along southeastern and southern Brazil (21- 34º S). Fisheries Research 52: 99-112.

Ferguson, M. C. and Barlow, J. 2001. Spatial distribution and density of cetaceans in the eastern Pacific Ocean based on summer/fall research vessel surveys in 1986-96. Southwest Fisheries Science Center Adminstrative Report LJ-01-04: 61 pp.

Fernández, A., Edwards, J. F., Rodriguez, F., Espinosa, A., De Los Monteros, Herraez, P., Castro, P., Jaber, J. R., Martin, V. and Arebelo, M. 2005. "Gas and fat embolic syndrome" involving a mass stranding of beaked whales (family Ziphiidae) exposed to anthropogenic sonar signals. Veterinary Pathology 42: 446-457.

Hohn, A. A., Rotstein, D. S., Harms, C. A. and Southall, B. L. 2006. Multispecies mass stranding of pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata), and dwarf sperm whales (Kogia sima) in North Carolina on 15-16 January 2005. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS SEFSC 537: 222.

IUCN. 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (ver. 2012.2). Available at: http://www.iucnredlist.org. (Accessed: 17 October 2012).

Jepson, P. D., Arebelo, M., Deaville, R., Patterson, I. A. P., Castro, P., Baker, J. R., Degollada, E., Ross, H. M., Herraez, P., Pocknell, A. M., Rodriguez, F., Howie, F. E., Espinosa, A., Reid, R. J., Jaber, J. R., Martin, V., Cunningham, A. A. and Fernandez, A. 2003. Gas-bubble lesions in stranded cetaceans. Nature 425: 575-576.

Learmonth, J.A., Macleod, C.D., Santos, M.B., Pierce, G.J., Crick, H.Q.P. and Robinson, R.A. 2006. Potential effects of climate change on marine mammals. Oceanography and Marine Biology: An Annual Review 44: 431-464.

Mcalpine, D. F. 2002. Pygmy and dwarf sperm whales Kogia breviceps and K. simus. In: W. F. Perrin, B. Wursig and J. G. M. Thewissen (eds), Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, pp. 1007-1009. Academic Press.

Mullin, K. D. and Fulling, G. L. 2004. Abundance of cetaceans in the oceanic northern Gulf of Mexico, 1996-2001. Marine Mammal Science 20(4): 787-807.

Nagorsen, D. 1985. Kogia simus. Mammalian Species 239: 1-6.

Ross, G. J. B. 1979. Records of pygmy and dwarf sperm whales, genus Kogia, from southern Africa, with biological notes and some comparisons. Annals of the Cape Provincial Museums (Natural History) 11(14): 259-327.

Simmonds, M. P. and Lopez-Jurado, L. F. 1991. Whales and the military. Nature 351: 448.

Southall, B. L., Braun, R., Gulland, F. M. D., Heard, A. D., Baird, R. W., Wilkin, S. and Rowles, T. K. 2006. Hawaiian melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra) mass stranding event of July 3-4, 2004. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-OPR 31: 73 pp.

Taylor, B.L., Chivers, S.J., Larese, J. and Perrin, W.F. 2007. Generation length and percent mature estimates for IUCN assessments of Cetaceans. NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, La Jolla, California. Administrative Report LJ-07-01.

US Department of Commerce and US Navy. 2001. Joint interim report Bahamas marine mammal stranding event of 14-16 March 2000. US Department of Commerce and US Navy.

Wade, P.R. and Gerrodette, T. 1993. Estimates of cetacean abundance and distribution in the eastern tropical Pacific. Reports of the International Whaling Commission 43: 477-493.

Wang, J. Y. and Yang, S. C. 2006. Unusual cetacean stranding events of Taiwan in 2004 and 2005. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 8: 283-292.

Waring, G.T., Josephson, E., Fairfield, C.P. and Maze-Foley, K. 2006. U.S. Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico marine mammal stock assessments - 2005. NOAA Technical Memorandum NMFS-NE-201. 346 p.

Citation: Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J.K.B., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L. 2012. Kogia sima. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2012: e.T11048A17695273. . Downloaded on 18 July 2018.
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