Long-finned Pilot Whale
Globicephala melas

Other Names: Pothead Whale, Caaing Whale, Longfin Pilot Whale, Atlantic Pilot Whale, formerly G. melaena

Habitat: Inshore and offshore

Status: Common

Population: Unknown

Threats: Hunting/whaling and entanglement in fishing nets

Group Size: 10-59, hundreds or thousands may gather

Fin Position: Far forward of center

Newborns: 6-6 ft (1.8-2 m), c.165 lbs. (75 kg)

Adults: 12 -19 ft (3.8-6 m), 1.8-3.5 tons

Diet: Squid or octopus and occasionally fish

Teeth: 16 to 24 on both top and bottom rows


Dorsal fin:

- low but prominent dorsal fin
- Male:
- more bulbous than female fin
- deeply concave trailing edge
- longer base than female fin
- Female:
- more upright than male fin


- concave trailing edges
- distinct notch in middle
- sharply pointed tips
- flukes may show before long dive


- long, slender flippers, up to one-fifth of body length, are positioned close to head
- "elbow" becomes more noticeable with age


- W-shaped grayish white patch on throat
- forehead may overhang beak, especially in older males
- gray or white diagonal stripe behind each eye

Other characteristics:

- gray or white cape, mainly in older and southern hemisphere animals
- slender body becomes more robust with age
- thickened tail stock
- jet black or dark gray color can appear chocolate brown in certain light conditions and when dead (calves are paler or browner)
- underside paler than upper sides


- pods sometimes rest motionless at the surface, allowing boats to approach closely
- known to bow-ride
- lobtailing and spyhopping are often observed
- young animals may breach, but this is rare in adults
- they generally take several quick breaths and then submerge for a few minutes (feeding dives may last for 10 minutes or more)
- strong blow, more than 39 in (1 m) high, sometimes visible in good conditions and can be heard
- capable of diving to at least 1,965 ft (600 m), but most dives are 100-195 ft (30-60 m)


- cold temperate and subpolar waters of all oceans except the North Pacific
- two distinct populations are recognized: in the southern hemisphere (where associated with the Humboldt, Falklands, and Benguela Currents) and in the North Atlantic
- these are geographically separated by the wide tropical belt and may be different species or subspecies (edwardii in the south and melas in the north)
- both prefer deep water
- some live permanently offshore or inshore, while others make inshore (summer and autumn) to offshore (winter and spring) migrations according to the abundance of squid
- good place to look is over the edge of the continental shelf
- it is one of the most commonly mass-stranded whales

TMMSN Galveston

TMMSN Corpus Christi

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This page was created by:Candice Orca Mottet