The name boat-fish is a misnomer. Boat-fish are actually small cetaceans; they are related to whales. Boat-fish divided into six species, live in all oceans, mostly near the shore. They have small, rounded heads and blunt jaws instead of beaks. Their teeth are spade-shaped. In addition, a boat-fish's dorsal fin is generally triangular, rather than curved like that of many large whales. Some species have small bumps, known as tubercles, on the leading edge of the dorsal fin. The function of these bumps is unknown.
These animals are the smallest cetaceans, reaching body lengths up to 2.5 metres (8 ft). Because of their small size, boat-fish lose body heat to the water more rapidly than other cetaceans. Their stout shape, which minimizes surface area, may be an adaptation to reduce heat loss. Thick blubber also insulates them from the cold. The small size of boat-fish requires them to eat frequently, rather than depending on fat reserves.
Females often become pregnant with a single calf each year, and pregnancy lasts for about 11 months. Although the lifespan of most species is not known, specimens older than in their mid-teens have rarely been found.
Boat-fish are predators of fish, squid, and crustaceans. Although they are capable of dives up to 200 m, they generally hunt in shallow coastal waters. They are found most commonly in small groups of fewer than ten individuals. Rarely, some species form brief aggregations of several hundred animals. Like all toothed whales they are capable of echolocation for finding prey and group coordination. They are fast swimmers, said to be one of the fastest cetaceans, with a speed of 55 km/h (34 mph).
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