Short-finned pilot whale
The Short-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) is one of the two species of cetacean in the genus Globicephala. It is part of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae), though its behaviour is closer to that of the larger whales.
Short-finned Pilot Whales can be confused with their relatives the long-finned pilot whales, but there are various differences. As their names indicate, their flippers are shorter than those of the Long-finned Pilot Whale, with a gentler curve on the edge. They have fewer teeth than the Long-finned Pilot Whale, with 14 to 18 on each jaw. Short-finned pilot whales are black or dark grey with a grey or white cape. They have grey or almost white patches on their bellies and throats and a grey or white stripe which goes diagonally upwards from behind each eye.
Adult males may have a number of scars on their bodies. Their heads are bulbous and this can become more defined in older males. Their dorsal fins vary in shape depending on how old the whale is and whether it is male or female. They have flukes with sharply pointed tips, a distinct notch in the middle and concave edges. They tend to be quite slender when they are young, becoming more stocky as they get older.
Physical Characteristics at a Glance
Field ID: Stocky body, bulbous forehead, no prominent beak, long flippers sharply pointed at the tip, black or dark grey color, fin set forward on body, fluke raised before deep dive, may float motionless at the surface, frequently seen in very large groups, prefers deep water, may be approached.
Length (metres): Adults are 3.5 - 6.5 metres in length. When they are born short-finned pilot whales are about 1.4-1.9 metres long.
Weight: At birth, Short-finned Pilot Whales weigh about 60 kg (135 lb). A fully grown adult will weigh between 1 and 4 tons.
Diet: Fish, Squid, Octopus
Short-finned Pilot Whales are very sociable and are rarely seen alone. They are found in groups of ten to thirty, though some pods are as large as sixty. They are sometimes seen logging and will allow boats to get quite close. They rarely breach, but may be seen lobtailing (slapping their flukes on the water surface) and spyhopping (poking their heads above the surface). Before diving, they arch their tails and raise them above the surface. When coming to the surface to breathe, adults tend to show only the top of their head, whereas calves will throw their entire head out of the water. Adults occasionally porpoise (lift most of the body out of the water) when swimming particularly quickly.
They are known as the 'Cheetahs of the Deep' for the high speed pursuits of squids at depths of hundreds of metres.
The Short-finned Pilot Whale is covered by the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) and the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS). The species is further included in the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia (Western African Aquatic Mammals MoU) and the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region (Pacific Cetaceans MoU)
In a very few areas of Japan, mainly along the central Pacific coast, pilot whales are commercially hunted and the meat is available for human consumption. In certain restaurants or izakayas, pilot whale steaks are marinated, cut into small chunks, and grilled. The meat is high in protein and low in fat (a whale's fat is contained in the layer of blubber beneath the skin). When grilled, the meat is slightly flaky and quite flavorful, somewhat gamey, though similar to a quality cut of beef but with distinct yet subtle undertones recalling its marine origin.
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- Taylor, B.L., Baird, R., Barlow, J., Dawson, S.M., Ford, J., Mead, J.G., Notarbartolo di Sciara, G., Wade, P. & Pitman, R.L. (2011). "Globicephala macrorhynchus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/9249. Retrieved 18 January 2012.
- "No Matter How You Slice It, Whale Tastes Unique", Planet Ark (Reuters), 2002, http://www.planetark.org/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/16090/story.htm, retrieved 14 January 2011
- Browne, Anthony (9 September 2001), "Stop Blubbering: Whales are supposed to be protected but that doesn't stop the Japanese killing and eating hundreds of them every year. But does the West's moral outrage over the pursuit of our gentle leviathans amount to anything more than hypocrisy and cultural bullying?", The Observer, http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2001/sep/09/foodanddrink.features4, retrieved 14 June 2011
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- WDCS (Danish)