Cornforth Images

Pilot Whale

There are two species of pilot whales, the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) and the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). It is not easy to distinguish between them at sea, with analysis of the skulls is the only way to tell them apart. Between the two species, pilot whales range in waters nearly worldwide, with long-finned pilot whales mostly living in cold waters and short-finned pilot whales living in tropical and subtropical waters. Pilot whales are among the largest of the oceanic dolphins, exceeded in size only by the orca.

Pilot whales are primarily squid eaters, but will also feed on fish. Like all dolphins, they are highly social. Short-finned pilot whales are also one of the few mammal species where females go through menopause, and post-reproductive females may contribute to the survival of younger members of their pods. Pilot whales are notorious for stranding themselves on beaches. They are still targeted by whalers in a few countries.