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 prominent, rounded, tall and placed peculiarly in front of the mid-point of the body.
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.
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.
Found In: They inhabit warmer waters in offshore areas. They mainly feed on squid.
Records from India: Common around Andaman and Nicobar islands and Lakshadweep islands. A shoal of these whales is known to have been stranded at Salt Lake near Calcutta in July 1852. Two other mass strandings on the Indian coast occurred in 1973, when 147 of these animals stranded near Tuticorin and again in 2017, 80+ animals stranded in the same location. They have also been sighted off Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
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 other Blackfish
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.