Short-finned pilot whale

The short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) is one of the two species of cetaceans in the genusGlobicephala. It is part of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae), though its behaviour is closer to that of the larger whales.

Short-finned pilot whales can be confused with their relatives the long-finned pilot whales, but there are various differences. As their names indicate, their flippers are shorter than those of the long-finned pilot whale, with a gentler curve on the edge. They have fewer teeth than the long-finned pilot whale, with 14 to 18 on each jaw. Short-finned pilot whales are black or dark grey with a grey or white cape. They have grey or almost white patches on their bellies and throats and a grey or white stripe which goes diagonally upwards from behind each eye.

Adult males may have a number of scars on their bodies. Their heads are bulbous and this can become more defined in older males. Their dorsal fins vary in shape depending on how old the whale is and whether it is male or female. They have flukes with sharply pointed tips, a distinct notch in the middle and concave edges. They tend to be quite slender when they are young, becoming more stocky as they get older.

Short-finned pilot whale
  • Size

    Adults males are about 18 feet (5.5 meters) in length, whereas adult females only reach about 12 feet (3.7 meters) in length. Adults can weigh from 2200 to 6600 pounds (1,000-3,000 kg). When they are born, short-finned pilot whales are about 1.4–1.9 m (4 ft 7 in–6 ft 3 in) long and weigh about 60 kg (130 lb).

  • Feeding

    The short-finned pilot whale primarily feeds on squid, but will also feed on certain species of fish and octopus. They feed nearly 1000 feet deep or more, and spend great lengths of time at depth.
    A pod may spread out up to a half mile to cover more area to find food. They have also been reported to "harass" sperm whales and dolphins, so marine mammals could also potentially be part of their diets.

  • Life History

    Females mature at about 10 years of age and will start having calves every five to eight years.
    A female may nurse a calf for up to 15 years as long as it is the last born calf. Their gestation period lasts just over a year, and a female will have from four to six calves in her lifetime. A calf will suckle from its mother for a minimum of two years, but most will for nearly five years. A female will usually stop reproducing once reaching the age of about 40 years.

  • Behavior

    Short-finned pilot whales are very sociable and are rarely seen alone. They are found in groups of 10 to 30, though some pods are as large as 50. In a few sitings of pods, over several hundred animals have also been recorded. Pods are primarily matrilinial, or a female-based society. Some older females have been recorded actually taking care of calves that are not their own. They are sometimes seen logging and will allow boats to get quite close.