|Long-finned pilot whale|
|Size compared to an average human|
Globicephala melas melas
|Range of the long-finned pilot whale|
The long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) is a large species of oceanic dolphin. It shares the genus Globicephala with the short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus). Long-finned pilot whales are known as such because of their unusually long pectoral fins.
- 1 Taxonomy and naming
- 2 Anatomy and morphology
- 3 Behavior and life history
- 4 Distribution and abundance
- 5 Strandings
- 6 Conservation
- 7 Museum specimens
- 8 See also
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Taxonomy and naming
Pilot whales get their name from the original belief that there was a "pilot" or lead individual in their groups. The name for the genus, "Globicephala" is derived from a combination of Latin globus ("globe") and Greek kephale ("head"). The specific name "melas" is Greek for "black". This species has also earned the nickname of "pothead whale" in some places because the shape of its head reminded early whalers of black cooking pots.
This species was first classified in 1809 by Thomas Stewart Traill and given the name "Delphinus melas". However, this scientific name was changed later to "Globicephala melaena". Then in 1986, the specific name for this species was reverted to its original form as "melas".
Anatomy and morphology
The sexes are dimorphic, with females reaching lengths of up to 5.7 meters (19 ft) and 1,300 kg (2,900 lb), while males are significantly larger at up to 6.7 meters (22 ft) and 2,300 kg (5,070 lb). This makes the long-finned pilot whale the second largest member of the dolphin family, behind the killer whale (Orcinus orca).
Despite its common name, the long-finned pilot whale is actually a large species of dolphin. The same is true of orcas and several other small whales. It has a bulbous forehead and is black or dark grey in colour with light-grey or white markings on the throat and belly regions. This light grey patch found on the throat of pilot whales forms the shape of an anchor. Some individuals have other distinct markings such as a light coloured area behind dorsal fin, known as a saddle patch, as well as an upwards sweeping stripe just behind the eye. The dorsal fin is thick and falcate in nature, and is located about a third of the way down the length of the animal. The common name of this species is a reference to the pilot whale's long, sickle-shaped pectoral flippers that are 18 to 27 percent of its total body length. Being a toothed whale, pilot whales have a single blowhole.
It can be challenging to tell male and female apart in the wild for many cetacean species. Long-finned pilot whales are no exception, though it was thought in the past that males had hooked dorsal fins while females did not. Recent research on fin shape has shown that this is not a predictable way to distinguish between the sexes. However, males are bigger in size, and relative fin dimensions as well as other characteristics may still be discovered to allow for distinguishing the sex of at least certain age classes for free-ranging pilot whales.
The ranges of long-finned and short-finned pilot whales overlap in some areas of the world. As the difference between them is mainly distinguished by the length of the pectoral flippers and tooth counts, it is hard to tell the two species apart in these areas.
Behavior and life history
Long-finned pilot whales are very social in nature. They are usually seen in groups, which range in size from a couple of individuals to aggregations of over a thousand. However, 20 to 150 individuals are more commonly observed. Studies have shown that this species often forms small long-term social units made up of around 8-12 individuals. Genetic investigations of the pilot whales driven ashore in the Faroese hunts have shown a relatedness amongst whales, suggesting a matrilineal structure within social units. This means that calves - females and perhaps the males as well - remain with their mothers for life.
These groups have been observed socializing with common bottlenose dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins and Risso's dolphins. Pilot whales mainly feed on cephalopods, though in certain regions fish may be more prominent in their diet. Northwestern Atlantic whales are thought to dine predominately on short-finned squid.
Long-finned pilot whales can often be seen lobtailing and spyhopping. Occasionally they may also breach. This species is notorious for mass strandings. During a specific time of year, approximately December to March, these whales beach themselves in high numbers along the coast of New Zealand. The reasons for stranding are not fully understood, but because pilot whales have strong social bonds, it is hypothesized that when one animal strands, the rest of the group may have the tendency to follow.
These whales have also been observed babysitting calves that are not their own, with one study showing that many of those doing the babysitting are males.
Problems playing this file? See media help.
Long-finned pilot whales make many different kinds of sounds. In addition to squeaks, whistles, buzzes, and other calls likely used for communicative functions, they also produce rapid clicks that function as a type of bio sonar known as echolocation. This allows the whales to "see" in the murky, dark environments that they live in by listening to the nature of the echoes that return.
The whistles and pulsed calls that pilot whales make seem not to fall into distinct types, but rather can be arranged on a continuum. These calls are produced in a wide frequency range, which has been observed from less than 1 kHz to about 20 kHz.
Recent studies have found that a large portion of their vocal repertoire is made up of calls produced in repeated sequences. These repetitions are more commonly heard when whales are socializing than any other behavioral state (e.g. foraging, traveling, and resting).
Females reach sexual maturity at about 8 years of age, while males reach sexual maturity at around 12 years of age. It seems that mating can take place at any time during the year, but it peaks in late spring/early summer for both northern and southern hemisphere populations. Mating is thought to occur when different groups meet up, and breeding within units is a rare occurrence.
Gestation lasts approximately 12 to 16 months and calving occurs once every 3 to 6 years. Calves are generally 1.6–2.0 m (5 ft 3 in – 6 ft 7 in) at birth, and weigh about 75 kg (165 lb). Most calves are born in the summer, though some calving occurs throughout the year. There is evidence that some males may stay with their mothers after they reach sexual maturity.
Distribution and abundance
Though long-finned pilot whales appear to be abundant, there have been no recent reliable estimates for the worldwide population and very little long-term baseline data collected for monitoring population trends. However, based on their apparent abundance and what information is available, they are currently listed by the IUCN as "Least Concern." Conservative estimates for the population found off Newfoundland estimated around 13,000 individuals. Another study estimated a total of 780,000 animals in the North Atlantic, though this study includes both short and long-finned pilot whales as they are hard to distinguish at sea.
Long-finned pilot whales are found in the North Atlantic (subspecies Globicephala melas melas), as well as the Southern Hemisphere (subspecies Globicephala melas edwardii). Those in the north are wide-ranging and have been observed off the coast of the eastern U.S. and Canada, across the Atlantic in places such as the Azores and the Faroe Islands, as well as down the western coast of Europe all the way to the Strait of Gibraltar and North Africa. In the southern ocean, long-finned pilot whales are thought to range from 19 to 60° S, but are commonly seen in the Antarctic Convergence Zone and other areas, showing that they go as far as 68° S. This species has been observed near sea ice in the Antarctic.
Though there are only two recognized living subspecies, there was once a third that was found in the western North Pacific around Japan. These are thought to have died off sometime between the 8th and 12th century. This unnamed form was documented in historical literature and confirmed by the discovery of fossils in several locations of Japan, such as on Rebun Island and in Chiba Prefecture. Their biological niche after the extinction has likely been refilled by short-finned pilot whales, who are currently present in parts of this region.
Long-finned pilot whales are the most common species involved in mass strandings. The largest event consisted of 1,000 whales on the Chatham Islands in 1918. Though mass strandings of this species are most common in New Zealand, pilot whales have beached themselves in many other countries in places such as northern Europe, the Atlantic coast of North America, South America, and southern parts of Africa.
Over 600 pilot whales were involved in a stranding at Farewell Spit, New Zealand on February 9, 2017. This was the second largest mass stranding event to be documented.
Research from strandings
Scientists have learned a number of important things from mass strandings of long-finned pilot whales around the world. Studies suggest that they do not always beach together in family units - as multiple matrilines can be found in a single stranding event.
Current conservation status
The North Sea and Baltic Sea populations of the long-finned pilot whale are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), since they have an unfavourable conservation status or would benefit significantly from international co-operation organised by tailored agreements.
The long-finned pilot whale is also covered by the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS), the Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area (ACCOBAMS), the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region (Pacific Cetaceans MoU) and the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia (Western African Aquatic Mammals MoU).
Whaling of this species in the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic has been practiced since the time of the first Norse settlements there. The hunts, called grindadráp in Faroese, are mainly executed during the summer. They are generally regarded as non-commercial - though people may sell their share after the catch has been divided - and organized on a community level. The hunters first surround the pilot whales with a wide semicircle of many boats. The boats then drive the pilot whales into a bay or to the bottom of a fjord. It is regulated by Faroese authorities but not by the International Whaling Commission, which does not regulate the hunts of small cetaceans. As of the end of November 2008 the chief medical officers of the Faroe Islands have recommended that pilot whales no longer be considered fit for human consumption because of the level of mercury in the whales.
Though the Faroe Islands are home to the only remaining large scale long-finned pilot whale hunts in the world, this species has also been hunted historically elsewhere. An industrial drive fishery was started in the Trinity Bay area of Newfoundland, Canada in 1947 by a Norwegian whaling captain. The catches increased every year until in 1956, there were approximately 10,000 pilot whales successfully captured and killed. This species was also historically hunted along the New England coastline.
Aside from the Faroe Islands, a few pilot whales are taken opportunistically in Greenland each year.
Long-finned pilot whales are economically important in the whale-watching industry of some areas of the world, especially in eastern Canada. Even though there are a number of other species of whales found in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence and around Newfoundland, pilots are one of the more common ones sighted inshore during the summer season. The tour vessels used in these regions are normally old converted fishing vessels or zodiacs. In these places, pilot whales provide valuable income for people living in rural fishing communities.
The effects of whale-watching on long-finned pilot whales have not been well studied.
- Mead, J. G.; Brownell, R. L. Jr. (2005). "Order Cetacea". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 723–743. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Minton, G.; Reeves, R.; Braulik, G. (2018). "Globicephala melas". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T9250A50356171. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T9250A50356171.en. Retrieved 18 November 2021.
- "Appendices | CITES". cites.org. Retrieved 14 January 2022.
- Olson, P.A. (2008). "Pilot whale Globicephala melas and G. muerorhynchus". pp. 847–52 in Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Perrin, W. F., Wursig, B., and Thewissen, J. G. M. (eds.). Academic Press; 2nd edition. ISBN 0-12-551340-2
- Ridgway, S. H. (1998). Handbook of Marine Mammals: The second book of dolphins and the porpoises. Volume 6, Elsevier. pp. 245–69. ISBN 0-12-588506-7
- Cawardine, M.; Hoyt, E.; Fordyce, R.E.; Gill, P. (1998). Whales and Dolphins, the Ultimate Guide to Marine Mammals. London: Harper Collins Publishers.
- Traill, T. S. (1809). "Description of a new species of whale, Delphinus melas". In a letter from Thomas Stewart Traill, M.D. to Mr. Nicholson". Journal of Natural Philosophy, Chemistry, and the Arts. 1809: 81–83.
- Starting, Jones Jr; Carter D.C.; Genoways H.H.; Hoffman R.S.; Rice D.W. Jones (1986). "Revised checklist of North American mammals north of Mexico". Occ Papers Mus Texas Tech Univ. 107: 5.
- Jefferson, T.A., Webber. M.A., and Pitman, R.L. (2015). Marine Mammals of the World: A Comprehensive Guide to Their Identification (2nd edition). Academic Press: San Diego.
- Macdonald, D.W. (2001). The New Encyclopedia of Mammals. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
- Hooker, Sascha K. (2009). Perrin, William F.; Wursig, Bernd; Thewissen, J.G.M, eds. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals (2nd ed.). 30 Corporate Drive, Burlington Ma. 01803: Academic Press. p. 1173. ISBN 978-0-12-373553-9.
- Augusto, Joana F., Frasier, Timothy R., and Whitehead, Hal. (2013). "Using photography to determine sex in pilot whales (Globicephala melas) is not possible: Males and females have similar dorsal fins". Marine Mammal Science, 29:213-220.
- Nores C, Pérez C (1988). "Overlapping range between Globicephala macrorhynchus and Globicephala melaena in the northeastern Atlantic". Mammalia. 52 (1): 51–55. doi:10.1515/mamm.1922.214.171.124. S2CID 85144528.
- ICES (2010). Report of the Working Group on Marine Mammal Ecology (WGMME). 12–15 April 2010, Horta, The Azores. ICES CM 2010/ACOM: 24. 212 pp.
- Mortensen, H.S.; et al. (2014). "Quantitative relationships in delphinid neocortex". Frontiers in Neuroanatomy. 8: 132. doi:10.3389/fnana.2014.00132. PMC 4244864. PMID 25505387.
- Bloch, D., Desportes, G., Mouritsen, R., Skaaning, S. and Stefansson, E. (1993). An introduction to studies of the ecology and status of the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) off the Faroe Islands, 1986-1988. Report of the International Whaling Commission. Special Issue 14: 1-32.
- Sergeant, D.E. (1962). On the external characteristics of the blackfish or pilot whales (genus Globicephala). Journal of Mammalogy, 43(3): 395-413.
- Ottensmeyer A.; Whitehead H. (2003). "Behavioural evidence for social units in long-finned pilot whales". Canadian Journal of Zoology. 81 (8): 1327–1338. doi:10.1139/z03-127. S2CID 56260446.
- Jankowski, M. (2005). Long-finned pilot whale movement and social structure: residency, population mixing and identification of social units. M.Sc. thesis, Biology, Dalhousie University.
- Amos B.; Schlotterer C.; Tautz D. (1993). "Social structure of pilot whales revealed by analytical DNA profiling". Science. 260 (5108): 670–672. Bibcode:1993Sci...260..670A. doi:10.1126/science.8480176. PMID 8480176.
- Amos, B., Bloch, D., Desportes, G., Majerus, T.M.O., Bancroft, D.R., Barrett, J.A. and Dover, G.A. (1993). A review of molecular evidence relating to social organization and breeding system in the long-finned pilot whale. Report of the International Whaling Commission. Special Issue 14: 209-217.
- Baraff, L.S. and Asmutis-Silvia, R.A. 1998. Long-term association of an individual long-finned pilot whale and Atlantic white-sided dolphins. Marine Mammal Science, 14:155-161
- Shane, S.H. 1995. Relationship between pilot whales and Rissos' dolphins at Santa Catalina Island, California, USA. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 123:5-11
- Abend, Alan G., and Tim D. Smith. "Differences in stable isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen between long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) and their primary prey in the western north Atlantic." ICES Journal of Marine Science: Journal du Conseil 54.3 (1997): 500-503
- Monteiro, Sílvia, et al. "Application of stable isotopes to assess the feeding ecology of long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) in the northeast Atlantic Ocean." Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 465 (2015): 56-63.
- Mercer, M. C. "Modified Leslie-DeLury population models of the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melaena) and annual production of the short-finned squid (Illex illecebrosus) based upon their interaction at Newfoundland." Journal of the Fisheries Board of Canada 32.7 (1975): 1145-1154.
- Augusto, J.F., Frasier, T. and Whitehead, H. 2016. Characterizing alloparental care in the pilot whale (Globicephala melas) population that summers off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. Marine Mammal Science, DOI:10.1111/mms.12377
- Taruski, A.G. (1979). The whistle repertoire of the north Atlantic pilot whale (Globicephala melaena) and its relationship to behavior and environment. In: Behavior of Marine Animals, Vol. 3: Cetaceans. Edited by: Winn, H.E. and Olla, B.C., Plenum Press: New York, 345-368.
- Nemiroff, L. (2009). Structural variation and communicative functions of long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) pulsed calls and complex whistles. M.Sc. Thesis. Dalhousie University.
- Zwamborn, E. (2016). Repeated call sequences in long-finned pilot whales: social setting, modification, and behavioral context. M.Sc. Thesis. Dalhousie University.
- Zwamborn, E.M.J. and Whitehead, H. (2016). Repeated call sequences and behavioral context in long-finned pilot whales off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada. Bioacoustics, DOI: 10.1080/09524622.2016.1233457
- Amos B.; Barrett J.; Dover G.A. (1991). "Breeding behaviour of pilot whales revealed by DNA fingerprinting". Heredity. 67: 49–55. doi:10.1038/hdy.1991.64. PMID 1917551.
- NOAA. 2014. Long-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas). http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/cetaceans/pilotwhale_longfinned.htm
- Fullard K.J.; Early G.; Heide-Jorgensen M.P.; Bloch D.; Rosing-Asvid A.; Amos W. (2000). "Population structure of long-finned pilot whales in the North Atlantic: A correlation with sea surface temperature?". Molecular Ecology. 9 (7): 949–958. doi:10.1046/j.1365-294x.2000.00957.x. PMID 10886657. S2CID 25525790.
- Raga, J. A.; Balbuena, J. A. (1990). "A new species of the genus Crassicauda Leiper et Atkinson, 1914 (Nematoda: Spiruroidea) from the penis of Globicephala melas (Traill, 1809) (Cetacea: Globicephalidae) in the western mediterranean sea" (PDF). Annales de Parasitologie Humaine et Comparée. 65 (5–6): 255–261. doi:10.1051/parasite/1990655255. ISSN 0003-4150.
- Hay, K. (1982). Aerial line-transect estimates of abundance of humpback, fin, and long- finned pilot whales in the Newfoundland-Labrador area. Report of the International Whaling Commission, 32: 475-486.
- Buckland, S.T., Bloch, D., Cattanach, K.L., Gunnlaugsson, Th., Hoydal, K., Lens, S. and Sigurjónsson, J. (1993). Distribution and abundance of long-finned pilot whales in the North Atlantic, estimated from NASS-87 and NASS-89 data. Report of the International Whaling Commission. Special Issue 14: 33-49.
- Reeves, R.R., Smith, B.D., Crespo, R.A. and di Sciara, N. (2003). Dolphins, Whales and Porpoises: 2002–2010 Conservation Action Plan for the World's Cetaceans. Cetacean Specialist Group. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK.
- Payne, P.M., Selzer, L.A. and Knowlton, A.T. (1984). Distribution and density of cetaceans, marine turtles, and seabirds in the shelf waters of the northeastern United States, June 1980-December 1983, from shipboard observations. Final Report, National Marine Fisheries Service, Northeast Fisheries Center, Woods Hole, MA, Contract No. NA-81-FA-C-00023. 246pp.
- Mercer, M.C. (1975). Modified Leslie-DeLury population models of the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melaena) and annual production of the short-finned squid (Illex illecebrosus) based upon their interaction at Newfoundland. Journal of the Fisheries Research Board of Canada, vol 32 (7): 1145-1155.
- Bloch, D., Desportes, G., Mouritsen, R., Skaaning, S. and Stefansson, E. (1993c). An introduction to studies of the ecology and status of the long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas) off the Faroe Islands, 1986-1988. Report of the International Whaling Commission. Special Issue 14: 1-32.
- Reeves, R.R., B.S. Stewart, P.J. Clapham and Powell, J.A. (2002). National Audubon Society Guide to Marine Mammals of the World. Alfred A. Knopf: New York.
- L. Taylor, B.; Baird, R.; Barlow, J.; M. Dawson, S.; Ford, J.; G. Mead, J.; Notarbartolo di Sciara, G.; Wade, P.; L. Pitman, R. (2011). "Globicephala macrorhynchus". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2011. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2011-2.RLTS.T9249A12972356.en.
- Amano M. (2012). "みちのくの海のイルカたち(特集 みちのくの海と水族館の海棲哺乳類)" (PDF). Isana 56: 60–65. Retrieved 9 March 2017.
- "Chatham Islands marine mammals".
- Oremus, M., Gales, R., Kettles, H., & Baker, C. S. (2013). Genetic evidence of multiple matrilines and spatial disruption of kinship bonds in mass strandings of long-finned pilot whales, Globicephala melas. Journal of Heredity, 104(3), 301-311.
- "Appendix II" of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). As amended by the Conference of the Parties in 1985, 1988, 1991, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2005 and 2008. Effective: 5 March 2009.
- Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas. Ascobans.org. Retrieved on 2014-01-04.
- Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area. Accobams.org. Retrieved on 2014-01-04.
- Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region. Pacificcetaceans.org. Retrieved on 2014-01-04.
- Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia, Convention on Migratory Species page on the Long-finned pilot whale. UNEP/Convention on Migratory Species
- "Small Cetaceans". International Whaling Commission. 5 May 2004. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
- "Catch limits". International Whaling Commission. 1 September 2009. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
- MacKenzie, Debora (28 November 2008). "Faroe islanders told to stop eating 'toxic' whales". New Scientist. Retrieved 21 July 2009.
- "Whales and Whaling in the Faroe Islands". whaling.fo. Whales and Whaling in the Faroe Islands. Retrieved 23 September 2015.
- "Long finned pilot whale skeleton". Leeds City Council. 18 October 2019. Retrieved 11 December 2020.