Common Name: Short-finned Pilot Whale
|Short-finned Pilot Whale|
Size comparison against an average human
General Description: Short-finned Pilot Whales have a robust body, with a thick and bulbous head, the front of which in mature males is flattened or squarish. The upper lip is slightly protruding. The flippers are falcate, and they are about one-sixth or less of the body length. The fin is low, and the tail flukes have a concave trailing edge deeply notched in the centre.
Short-finned Pilot Whales are mainly black, with a lighter grey saddle behind the dorsal fin. A lightly pigmented blaze is present behind the eye. A light chevron may be present behind the blowhole on the neck. Many animals also have a lighter anchor-shaped patch on the chest. Immature animals are primarily gray.
Size: Adults, Males may attain lengths of 6 m and weights of 3000 kg, whilst females are smaller, growing to 5 m in length and attaining weights of up to 1500 kg.Calves at birth, 1.4 m long, weigh around 60 kg.
Appearance At Sea: Short-finned Pilot Whales are rarely seen alone and travel in highly social groups of between 10 and several hundred. There are generally 40 animals in a pod. Adults rise evenly to breathe, showing the top of the head first and producing an explosive blow. Although the melon breaks the surface every time the whale breathes, the mouth is never seen.
The species is quite indifferent to shipping, and can be approached very close in small boats. The name ‘pilot’ was given by fishermen, who believed that the animal was always found near herring shoals, and used it to guide their boats.
Disturbed Pilot Whales at sea will spyhop, rising high out of the water. They peer around the side of the melon at the intruder, as they cannot see anything directly ahead. In this position they look so much like cowled figures in black robes that Italian mariners called this animal monaco, or monk.
Found In: The Short-finned Pilot Whale lives in the warmer waters of deep oceans. The fact that it may come close to the coast is indicated by its frequent strandings. They mainly feed on squid.
Records from India: A shoal of these whales is known to have been stranded at Salt Lake near Calcutta in July 1852. Another mass stranding on the Indian coast occurred in 1973, when 147 of these animals stranded near Tuticorin. More recently, two of them were caught in fishing nets near Cuddalore, Tamil Nadu.
|July 1852||A shoal of many dozens of the ‘Indian Pilot Whale Globicephalus indicus’ stranded at Salt Lake,
near Calcutta; two specimens procured by Blyth.
|Jerdon, 1967; Moses, 1947|
|1852 [?]||Recorded by Blanford from ‘the salt or brackish water of the Gangetic Delta’.||De Silva, 1987|
|26 January 1923||Three photographs in the British Museum (Natural History) of the species from 16 km north of Bombay.||Leatherwood et al., 1991|
|14 January 1973||147 pilots stranded on a 3 km stretch from Kulasekharapattinam to Manapad.||Alagaraswami et al., 1973|
|14 December 1980||Two groups seen.||Leatherwood et al., 1991|
|16 December 1980||Five seen .||Leatherwood et al., 1991|
|29 July 1986||Two female specimens, 3.02 and 1.4 long, caught in gillnets at Pudukuppam near Cuddalore.||Nammalwar, Devadoss et al., 1989|
These Pilot Whales have been observed near Sri Lanka, Djibouti, Somalia and Seychelles.
World Distribution: Short-finned Pilot Whales are found in the tropical regions of the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Could Be Confused With: There is a distinct possibility of confusion with False Killer Whales Pseudorca crassidens which are also equally social. They can be distinguished as follows:
|Short-finned Pilot Whale||More than 4m long||Square, bulbous head||Broad-based fin||Long pointed flipper with elbow||White visible on throat|
|False Killer Whale||More than 4m long||Narrow, tapered head||High curved fin||Long pointed flippers with elbow||No markings visible|
There is also a superficial resemblance to the Pygmy Killer Whale Feresa attenuata and the Melonhead Whale Peponocephala electra but both species are considerably smaller and have much more pointed fins.
Diagnostic Features: At sea, square, bulbous head; broad-based fin.
Stranded Specimens:There are 7 to 9 pairs of peg-like teeth in each jaw. Dark chevron marking is visible just behind the blowhole.