The Pilot Whale
 
The Pilot Whale

Pilot Whale Facts

Pilot whales are actually the second largest dolphin after the orca, more commonly referred to as the “killer whale.” Pilot whales belong to the order “cetacea,” and to the family “delphinidae.”

The long-finned pilot whale generally travels in large schools containing hundreds of cetaceans. Within the schools are small, close-knit matriarchal pods of 10-20 pilot whales. These intelligent marine mammals form extremely cohesive social bonds; strandings of several hundred pilot whales are not uncommon, and pod members will often stick close together and protect the matriarch of the group.

Pilot whaleThe pilot whale received its name due to a belief that the pod always follows a single leader, which although not scientifically proven, is commonly believed to be the reason for these tragic mass strandings.

The pilot whale can dive as deep as 500 meters when hunting for food, and has a diet consisting primarily of squid, along with fish, octopus and crustaceans such as shrimp.

Long-finned pilot whales calve between the months of April and September. The Faroese grind generally takes place in July and August, in the midst of the calving season. Pregnant females and juveniles often fall victim to these brutal slaughters.

Pilot Whale Classification

CLASS: Mammalia
ORDER: Cetacea
SUBORDER: Odontoceti
FAMILY: Delphinidae
GENUS: Globicephala
SPECIES: melaena (long-finned) / macrorhynchus (short-finned)

Pilot whale spy-hopping. Note the distinctive heart-shaped marking.Pilot whale spy-hopping. Note the distinctive heart-shaped marking.

 
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