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Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)

Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus)

All text on this page is copyright protected: © 2014 Kelvin Aitken.
All rights reserved. Students may use this information for personal research only. Not for commercial use.

Order: Cetacea
Family: Delphinidae
Genus: Globicephala
Species: macrorhynchus
Taxonomic name: Globicephala macrorhynchus
Other Common Names: Pilot Whale, Blackfish.

The Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) is one of two species of oceanic marine mammals known as Pilot Whales or Blackfish. The other pilot whale species is called the Long-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melaena). The difference between the two species is, as their common names indicate, the length of their pectoral fins. Of course there are other differences but physically it is the most noticeable difference between the two species.

The distribution of the Short-finned Pilot Whale is mostly tropical and the Long-finned Pilot Whale is usually temperate.

Short-finned Pilot Whales are found in deep oceanic waters where they feed on squid. They are able to dive to at least 600 m to find their prey, resting between feeding and traveling in pods on the surface for long periods of time. At times they may feed close to shore and are often found beached in pods.

Mature males have a large hooked dorsal fin, as shown above, with females and calves having shorter pointed dorsal fins with a moderate backward sweep. The head is bulbous and blunt with mature animals having an almost square forehead when viewed from above. The tail is moderate in width with upturned tips and perceived by a muscular, vertically compressed, caudal peduncle. The plain black to dark gray body is usually marked by scraps and cookie cutter shark bites. There are lighter patterns on the body in the form of a blaze behind the eye, a chevron behind the blowhole and a large saddle behind the dorsal fin but some or all of these markings may be muted or absent in individuals.

Pods of Short-finned Pilot Whales can number from just a few to hundreds. Males do not seem to be overly protective of harems with males swimming together and with various females and calves mixed into mini pods within larger groups. They are very social, calling with squeal's, squeaks and pips. Pups are cared for by the mother but also enjoy the protection of all pod members. Males will tend to place themselves between potential threats and females and/or calves. Considered harmless to humans but at least one attack has been recorded on a diver who was touching resting adults.

Pups are born at 1.4 m long, mature females grow to 4 m and males to 5.4 m.

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