What is a Blackfish?

Squid constitutes the main diet of black fish.

Blackfish is a term used to describe several types of fish and two types of cetaceans. Fish commonly referred to by the term include Alaskan blackfish, Sacramento blackfish, and river blackfish. The melon-headed whale and the killer whale, also known as an orca, are also called by this name.

The Alaskan blackfish, Dallia pectoralis, is an olive brown cylindrical fish. The fish has four to six dark spots that run vertically down the sides and has a white belly. The fins have reddish-brown spots. Reaching lengths of 7 inches (17.7 cm), the fish are found in Alaska and the islands of the Bering Sea.

“Blackfish” may refer to the Alaskan blackfish.

The Sacramento blackfish, Orthodon microlepidotus, is found in central California. This fish is the only member of the Orthodon genus. Dark in color throughout the body, the fish is lighter when young and darkens as it matures. Growing to lengths of 21.5 inches (55 cm), the fish is common in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. They are also found in the waters that flow into the San Francisco Bay.

Orca can be called “black fish”.

The river blackfish, Gadopsis marmoratus, is found in the freshwater of Australia’s Murray-Darling river system, from Queensland to Victoria. A nocturnal carnivore, the fish’s diet consists of crayfish, shrimp and other small fish. Reaching lengths of 11.8 inches (30 cm), the fish are in decline because of overfishing, competition from introduced species, and stream silting.

The melon-headed whale, Peponocephala electra, is sometimes referred to as the many-toothed blackfish or the electra dolphin. This whale is part of the dolphin family, or Delphinidae. The entire family is often called by the common name of blackfish. The killer whale, Orcinus orca, is also part of this family.

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The melon-headed whale is found in most tropical waters of the world. The whale’s body is light gray, and the face, which is shaped like a rounded cone, is dark gray. Reaching lengths of 10 feet (3 m), the main diet of the melon-headed whale is squid.

The killer whale is the only species in the genus Orcinus. With a black back, white sides, and white chest, the orca has a white patch above and behind its eye. Calves have a yellowish hue that changes to white. Male killer whales average 20 to 26 feet (6 to 8 m) in length, and females are 16 to 23 feet (5 to 7 m).

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