False killer whale sightings are rare, but a snorkeler who visited Tonga last week can show his friends that one of the mysterious mammals almost literally leaped over his head.
Portelli's description reads: "Today out on the water we had an unexpected encounter with a large pod of false killer whales. This one interactive one came back and literally jumped over one of my guests. Never know what you are going to see in Tonga."
Portelli also posted a still photo of two false killer whales under the description: "Sometimes when you are looking for humpbacks, you find false killer whales instead. This mother and calf false killer whale rolled around under us whistling and checking us out. Some beautiful encounters with some rarely seen cetaceans in Tonga."
Robin Baird, a false killer whale expert with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology and Cascadia Research Collective, told GrindTV that while false killer whale encounters are rare, when they do occur the mammals "are generally very interested in divers and snorkelers."
False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), which can grow to about 17 feet, are uniformly black or dark gray, and do not resemble killer whales. They were named because, like killer whales, they sometimes attack small whales and dolphins.
The cetaceans are highly social and have been observed delivering captured fish to other members of their pod, and even to humans on boats.
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