Fun Short-finned Pilot Whale Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Oct 20, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Fact-checked by Jacob Fitzbright
Short-finned pilot whale facts are thrilling

The pilot whales have been classified into two distinct species, namely the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) and the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Famously hailed as the cheetahs of the deep sea, the short-finned pilot whales heavily populate the tropical and sub-tropical waters, while the long-finned pilot whales prefer the cool oceanic waters of temperate regions.

Humans pose an impactful threat to the survival of the species, where large-scale hunting has resulted in the decline of their population to a great extent. As per records, 100-500 short-finned pilot whales had been hunted in places like Okinawa, Taiji, Sanriku, Izu, and Hokkaido within the years 1948 to 1980.

This culture is unfortunately still in practice as various Japanese cuisines serve sashimi or steaks prepared from pilot whale meat. Since the meat has low fat and high protein content, it is always in great demand among seafood lovers.

Unchecked hunting practices posit the risk of future extinction of the species, given that proper measures are not adequately implemented.

Some of these whales had been kept under captivity for conservation or entertainment purposes, but none showed a high survival rate. The famous entertainer, Bubbles, was an exception, though.

Bubbles was stationed at Marineland, Rancho Palos Verdes, where she was used for performing beautiful air spins and other entertaining activities. The world grieved when the most adored performer at SeaWorld died in her mid-50s.

If you want to indulge in some more insightful facts about the short-finned pilot whale, then read on. Also, don't miss out on these amazing facts about the field vole and the Arctic ground squirrel.

Short-finned Pilot Whale Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Short-finned Pilot Whale?

The short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) is a species of marine mammals, that is, cetaceans, belonging to the genus Globicephala. Quite contrary to what the name of the species suggests, these animals are actually not whales but are considered to be members of the dolphin (Delphinidae) family.

What class of animal does a Short-finned Pilot Whale belong to?

The short-tailed pilot whale belongs to the class Mammalia, order Cetartiodactyla.

How many Short-finned Pilot Whales are there in the world?

According to the latest records, the number of short-finned pilot whales has been estimated at 700,000 mature individuals worldwide.

Where does a Short-finned Pilot Whale live?

The short-finned pilot whales live in the deep oceanic waters of the Pacific Ocean (especially in the western North Atlantic), Indian Ocean, and the Mediterranean Sea. Short-finned pilot whales are found abundantly in the waters of both the east and west coasts of the US as well as the Hawaiian coasts.

On the East Coast, the numbers have been recorded at 21,500, whereas just 800 adults could be traced to the West Coast.

They can also be located around the Canary Islands. These whales are also ample in the deep waters of the Maldives and the African west coast.

What is a Short-finned Pilot Whale's habitat?

The short-finned pilot whale habitat includes deep marine waters of both tropical and subtropical regions as well as the pelagic and coastal waters.

Who does Short-finned Pilot Whale live with?

The short-finned pilot whales are extremely sociable, and they form pods where they group together with 10-30 family members. The numbers may even reach a few hundred. The proportion of females in a pod is significantly more than that of males.

How long does a Short-finned Pilot Whale live?

Their life expectancy is largely dependent on their sex, but generally, they enjoy a long underwater life. While the life span of the males is around 45 years, the females can live for about 60 years.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding period of the short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus) extends throughout the year, but the breeding ideally commences with the onset of July and continues until August. The male and female members of a single pod don't engage in mating, but they look out for partners from external pods.

Also, they engage in copulation with multiple partners throughout their lifetime. These marine mammals reach sexual maturity at the age of 10 years.

After mating and conception, the gestation period continues for 15 months. A female can give birth to one calf at a time and a total of around four to five calves after an interval of every seven years.

What is their conservation status?

As publicized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of threatened species, the conservation status of the Globicephala macrorhynchus (short-finned pilot whale) has been listed as of Least Concern as they are plentiful within their natural range of habitat.

The species is not considered to be endangered as of now, yet conservation of these whales is a matter of concern. Apart from the predatory sharks and killer whales, the major threats associated with the vulnerability of the short-finned pilot whales is mass strandings.

Several cases have been reported from the US, Australia, and the Canary Islands that have severely impacted their population.

These whales that go astray due to navigation errors, disorientation, disease, or injury can rarely be reverted back to their pod. Also, uncontrolled human activities leading to climate change, pollution, and global warming have largely contributed to the destruction of the marine ecosystem.

This has not only affected the pilot whale populations but every species in the marine biodiversity.

Short-finned Pilot Whale Fun Facts

What do Short-finned Pilot Whales look like?

Short-finned pilot whale facts are all about deep-sea diving mammals.

One of the largest and sturdiest dolphin species, the short-finned pilot whales come in shades of black to dark gray with an elongated body. Their dorsal fin is identical to the shape of a sickle, while they have a prominent bulbous head.

They have a patch resembling an anchor just beneath the belly and chin area, but behind the dorsal fin, they possess a saddle patch. Curved pectoral flippers and thick tailstock are some of the short-finned pilot whale adaptations. The dorsal fins are smaller among the females.

How cute are they?

If dolphins aren't the cutest aquatic animals, then who is? The cheerful and bubbly nature of the short-finned pilot whales, coupled with their adorable way of interaction, makes them absolutely irresistible. These lovable and playful animals are sure to melt anyone's heart!

How do they communicate?

Whistling is the most common mode of communication among pilot whales, with a frequency ranging between 2-14 kHz. Other vocalizations include pulsed sounds, echolocation clicks, and squeals.

When contrasted with the calls of a long-finned pilot whale, the short-finned whale utters sounds in a higher frequency. The frequency gains a distinctly higher frequency when these whales are filled with excitement while engaging in invigorating hunting expeditions or interacting with other pod members.

How big is a Short-finned Pilot Whale?

The average range of a short-finned pilot whale's length is from 9.8-20 ft (3-6 m). The males standing at a length of about 13-20 ft (4-6 m) are bulkier than the females measuring 9.8-16.4 ft (3-5 m).

In size, the short-finned pilot whales are almost similar to the long-finned pilot whales. They are of moderate size when compared with the humungous blue whales who have an average length of 100 ft (30 m).

How fast can a Short-finned Pilot Whale swim?

While pursuing the squids and octopuses, these short-finned pilot whales can reach great depths and dive as deep as 3,000 ft (1,000 m) underwater with an average speed of 20 mph (32 kph). Even with that large a size, they are capable of exceptionally swift movements.

How much does a Short-finned Pilot Whale weigh?

Identified as one of the largest species of dolphins, the weight of the short-finned pilot whales is in the range of about 2,205-6,614 lb (1,000-3,000 kg). On the other hand, the long-finned pilot whales measure in the range of 2,900 lb (1,300 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

The males are regarded as bulls, whereas the female whales are called cows.

What would you call a baby Short-finned Pilot Whale?

Babies of whales are commonly called calves.

What do they eat?

Short-finned pilot whales are carnivorous. Cephalopods like squids, nautilus, octopus, or cuttlefish serve as the primary food source for these mammals. However, they are not limited to a diet of mollusks only. Other dietary options include a variety of small fish.

Are they dangerous?

The short-finned pilot whales are known to be extremely social and docile like all dolphins.

Would they make a good pet?

Normally, the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) is not reared as a pet, although malpractices like hunting and poaching were common. It is a criminal offense to estrange these whales from their natural habitat and confine them as pets due to the stringent legal boundaries laid down by the government.

They have been protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Regulation charted out in the year 1992.

Did you know...

Short-finned pilot whales are often hunted down and killed mercilessly for their meat. Historically, the Japanese whalers hunted down thousands of pilot whales and exploited their populations greatly just to cater to the savory buds.

Pothead and blackfish are two of the nicknames attributed to the short-finned pilot whale.

Why is it called a pilot whale?

As the highly sociable nature of the pilot whales suggests, they stick together in medium to large groups, commonly called pods. It is believed that every pod is headed by a leader who would steer, command, and give directions to the entire group just as a pilot does. Thus, the pilot in the species' name is justified.

Does Short-finned Pilot Whale have teeth?

A long-finned pilot whale has more teeth than a short-finned pilot whale. The latter has about seven to nine short but sharp teeth, each in the upper and lower rows of teeth. The mouth structure is well-suited for their specialized diet on squids and octopuses.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including water opossum facts or Scottish terrier facts

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Short-finned pilot whale coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Jacob Fitzbright

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature and Philosophy

Jacob Fitzbright picture

Jacob FitzbrightBachelor of Arts specializing in English Literature and Philosophy

A highly motivated individual with a passion for writing and a talent for engaging with people. Jacob has a degree in English literature and philosophy from Oxford Brookes University, he has a strong academic background in critical thinking and analysis. He has honed his communication skills through his experience in hospitality, where he ran a successful bar and restaurant and developed his writing skills by creating weekly quizzes. In his free time, Jacob enjoys skateboarding, playing soccer, and solving puzzles.

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