Animals / Mammal Facts / Cetacea - Marine Mammals / Pilot Whale - Large Dolphin with Bulbous Head

Pilot Whale - Large Dolphin with Bulbous Head


mouth open

 

Falling into the categories of "long finned" and "short finned", pilot whales are the second largest species of oceanic dolphin behind the killer whale. They are usually mostly dark grey, brown, or black; with some lighter shaded areas in areas such as the rear of the the dorsal fin. They are distinct from most other whales because of the large bulbous size of their melons (the "melon" being the fatty oval organ located on the head of all toothed-whales; it's believed to be used for echolocation), and have long pointy flippers, as opposed to the thicker and shorter flippers of most other species. The whales range in size from around 18 feet (6 meters) to 23 feet (about 7.5 meters) long, and can weigh over 7,000 pounds (about 3,200 kilograms). They've been known to live between forty-five and sixty years.

 

 

couple whales

 

Pilot whales live in oceans all around the world, with the long-finned variety usually living in the colder climates, and the short-finned of the species inhabiting more tropical waters. They have been observed off the coasts of places like Chile, Argentina, South Africa, New Zealand, America, Greenland, and Norway. Their population is believed to be well over a million specimens. With an ability to dive almost 2,000 feet (600 meters) deep for times of over ten minutes, the pilot whale is a strong forager that can survive off things like squid and various fish.

 

long finned

 

Despite population estimates, not a lot of human interaction occurs in the pilot whale community, so not a tremendous amount is known about this amazing species. It is however known that they live in groups (pods) of between ten and thirty, and that within these groups there are strong bonds between the individual whales. They are also known to operate in smaller groups from within the pod for activities like hunting and mating.

 

surfacing

 

Despite some nations still hunting these big mammals for their meat and blubber, the species doesn't appear to be in danger of extinction. However, conservation groups don't have enough information to known for sure, so it's important that these animals be protected from unnecessary hunting. Notably the Faroe Islands have a controversial tradition of mass hunting these whales by trapping and driving them to the shore where they are stabbed and killed.

 

pod o pilots

 

 

 

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