Overview

Brief Summary

Long finned pilot whales according to MammalMAP

Like orcas, long finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas edwardii) are actually dolphins.  Quite large ones too.  They are thesecond largest dolphins as the noble orca still retains the title of No.1.  The average length of these whales is 5 m for females and 6 m for males.  These whales are sometimes known as the pothead whales because the shape of its head reminded early whalers of black cooking pots.  Other distinguishing features include their long flippers that make up 15 – 20% of their bodies as well as their sickle shaped dorsal fins.

Long finned pilot whales are highly social, family animals that form pods of 10 – 50 individuals.  A pod consists of both males and females but there is usually more females than males because males have a higher mortality rate and leave their pod when sexually mature in order to mate.  Mating occurs throughout the year but the peak of the mating season is between April and June.  Males display aggressive courtship behaviour by forcefully colliding head-to-head with another male at a heightened speed.

Long finned pilot whales eat approximately 34 kgs of food per day.  Squid is a firm favourite of these dolphins but they will also feed on small schooling fish and other cephalopods.  These animals have only 40-48 teeth compared to 120 in other dolphin species which may be an evolutionary adaptation to consuming large amounts of soft squid.

Long finned pilot whales prefer deep pelagic temperate to sub-polar oceanic waters but have been known to occur in coastal waters as well.  This species has been described as “anti-tropical.”  According to the IUCN Red List, this species is classified as a Data Deficient species.  More data is needed to determine different species of long finned pilot whales as well as to determine threats to global populations.  However, entanglement in fishing equipment and competition with squid fisheries has been identified as causes for population decline.

For more information on MammalMAP, visit the MammalMAP virtual museum or blog.

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