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There are two species of pilot whales: the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) and the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Though it is not easy to distinguish between them at sea, analysis of the skulls can tell them apart.
Between the two species, pilot whales range in waters nearly worldwide. Long-finned pilot whales mostly live in cold waters while short-finned pilot whales live in tropical and subtropical waters. These animals are among the largest of the oceanic dolphins, exceeded in size only by the orca.
These marine mammals 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. Hence, post-reproductive females contribute to the survival of younger members of their pods.
Unfortunately, pilot whales are notorious for stranding themselves on beaches. It’s unknown why this is. However, researchers are studying the issue, and hopefully will find a way to reduce beach strandings and avoid deaths of these majestic creatures.