Short-finned pilot whale

The short-finned pilot whale) is one of the two species of cetaceans in the genus Globicephala, which it shares with the long-finned pilot whale It is part of the oceanic dolphin family (Delphinidae).

It is found all around the world (avoiding the polar regions) with a global population of about 700,000, though watching them, there appear to be 3-4 distinct populations—two in the Pacific and one in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Its range is moving northward due to global warming. In the Pacific, males average 4–6 m  and females 3–5 m. generally stocky with black to dark gray or brown skin. It can be distinguished from the long-finned pilot whale by its  shorter flippers, fewer teeth, and a shorter beak. It is thought to pursue fast-moving squid typically at a depth of 700 m, but the maximum recorded depth is 1,018 m.

The short-finned pilot whale has been reported as being highly playful and social. It typically travels in pods of 10–30 members, usually family, but has been observed moving in groups of several hundred. Like killer whales, it has a matrilineal social hierarchy with an elder female at the head and a sizable post-reproductive lifespan. It is polygynous; females often outnumber males 8:1 in a pod.

Pods are known to mass strand, possibly due to sheer accident, biosonars confused by geomagnetic anomalies, injury from loud military sonar, or disease. It was historically whaled, and is still whaled today by Japan and the Lesser Antilles, but it is protected by several international treaties.

The total of all available abundance estimates for short-finned pilot whales is approximately 700,000 individuals, but populations vary worldwide, and large parts of the species’ range have not been surveyed, therefore actual abundance could be considerably greater than this.

In the western Pacific, population estimates range from 5,300 individuals in Northern Japan to 53,608 in Southern Japan. 7,700 individuals are reported in the eastern Sulu Sea (Philippines), and in the Eastern tropical Pacific the most recent estimate from 2000 gives 589,000 individuals. The resident population in Tenerife, Spain, is estimated at only 350 individuals.

The short-finned pilot whale was listed on the IUCN Red List as Data Deficient in 2008, and remains data-poor in much of its range, especially in the Southern Hemisphere and in large parts of the tropical and warm temperate North Atlantic Ocean.

You will find a video of the species below, and below that a list of any times it has been mentioned on this site (or is in the future). Below that, we will add any links for seeing this animal – as or when we get them.

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