Palmyra Fish

Unknown Cetacean of the Indian Ocean.

Etymology: Its fin was reminiscent of the Palmyra palm tree (Borassus flabelliformis) of the Malabar Coast, India, which has a straight, black, upright trunk.

Physical description: Length, 25 feet. Grayish-black. Distinctive, erect dorsal fin about 5 feet long on the highest part of its back.

Distribution: The Gulf of Mannar, between Cape Comorin, India, and Sri Lanka.

Significant sighting: E. W. H. Holdsworth observed this whale in the Gulf of Mannar off Chi-law Town, Sri Lanka, on April 7, 1868. The Indian crew of his ship was familiar with the whale and called it the Palmyra fish.

Possible explanation: The Killer whale (Orci-nus orca) has a high dorsal fin, but Holdsworth was convinced the animal was not one of these.

Source: Edmund William Hunt Holdsworth, "Note on a Cetacean Observed on the West Coast of Ceylon," Proceedings of the Zoological Society ofLondon, April 15, 1872, pp. 583-586.

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