Common Name: Short-finned Pilot Whale
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 the prominent feature after the shape of the head. It is large, low, and placed before the flippers, close to the blow hole. 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: Theyare 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.
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:
Species : Short-finned Pilot Whale
Length : More than 4m long
Fin: Square, bulbous head
Head : Broad-based fin
Flippers : Long pointed flipper with elbow
Markings : White visible on throat
Species : False Killer Whale
Length : More than 4m long
Fin: Narrow, tapered head
Head : High curved fin
Flippers : Long pointed flippers with elbow
Markings : 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.