Long-Finned Pilot Whale – Globicephala melas
The Long-Finned Pilot Whale belongs to the family of dolphins (Delphinidae) and is therefore part of the infraorder of whales (Cetaceans). Globicephala melas was first described by Traill in 1809.
Description, Anatomy & Characteristics
The Long-Finned Pilot Whale has, apart from a white place at the underside, a dark-grey until black colouring. The white pattern has the shape of an anchor and extends from just behind the chin to the anus. In addition, some animals have a light part behind the eye and/or behind the dorsal fin.
The spherical head is particularly conspicuous and barely separates from the cylindrical body. The melon towers above the extremely short muzzle.
While male specimens grow up to 8 meters long and weigh 3 tons, females reach only 6 meters. Accordingly, they are also somewhat lighter.
Habitat, Distribution & Occurrence
In contrast to many other representatives of the whales, the Long-Finned Pilot Whale has a small distribution-area. It prefers the temperate and cold latitudes. On the northern hemisphere, it is to be found merely in the Atlantic while it is widespread in all three oceans on the southern hemisphere.
Since it prefers to be in deep waters, it is almost impossible to observe Globicephala melas when scuba diving in the Canaries. However it can be observed on whale watching trips.
Biology & Feeding
The Long-Finned Pilot Whale is a social animal that lives in schools with an average of 20 animals. Groups of over 600 individuals were also observed at special events. In addition, they sometimes migrate together with other whale species such as Bottlenose Dolphins and Risso’s Dolphin. Their social structure is highly developed. The school usually follows a dominant male. This is how the colloquial name pilot whale was born in the first place.
Globicephala melas eats about 50kg of food every day, whereby it hunts mainly on Cephalopods. But it also feeds on fish. It is able to dive up to 600m deep and can hold its breath for up to 10 minutes.
Due to fewer wounds it is assumed that it has hardly any predators. Only killer whales and a few large sharks hunt it.
Outside the hunting season pilot whales swim leisurely at about 6km/h and breathe synchronously.