LONG FINNED PILOT WHALE
Long Finned Pilot Whales are large dolphins found in the Subpolar Oceans, Atlantic and Antarctic Oceans. Long Finned Pilot Whales are members of large dolphin family, scientifically named as Globecephala melas. The genus Globecephala has two subspecies, long finned and short finned pilot whales.
As the name indicates, these dolphins have long pectoral fins.
‘Globecephala’ means globe like head and ‘melas’ means black in color.
This Globecephala melas speceies has two subspecies ,named Globecephala melas melas: found in the Atlantic Ocean and Globecephala melas edwardii : found in the Southern Hemisphere or Antartic ocean. The third subspecies was not named:found in Japanese waters and had become extinct.
|6 to 7 m|
|squids, mackerel, turbots, herrings|
|black, dark grey and white marking on throat|
BODY FEATURES, LENGTH, WEIGHT
The Long Finned Pilot Whale has a solid, sturdy body with globe like head, an apparent beak with conical teeth, thick dorsal fin and long pectoral flippers. These dolphins are black or dark brown in color with white stripes behind the eyes. They have anchor shaped grayish marks on the throat and grayish belly.
The length of male Pilot whale is about 6.7 to 7 m. The length of female pilot whale is about 5.7 to 6 m and of the calf is about 1.6 to 2 m.
The male counterpart weighs around 2300 kg and the female pilot whale weighs around 1300 kg and the calf weighs around 75 to 100 kg.
Male pilot whales are heavier and larger than female counterpart,it is difficult to distinguish them.
HABITAT AND DIET
The Long Finned Pilot Whales live in moderately cold sea waters of the subpolar oceans. They mostly live in waters having depth and mainly remain away from shore, sometimes swim to coastal areas. They can dive to 600 m depth in sea water.
In North Atlantic Ocean, these dolphins are sighted in the sea waters around eastern coasts of Canada, North America ,Ireland, Iceland,Gulf of Lawrence, the Faroe Islands, north Africa and Western coasts of Europe. In Southern Hemisphere, they are sighted in the Antarctic Convergence Zone-in the waters around South America, South Africa, South Australia and coasts of New Zealand.
The Long Finned Pilot Whale feeds on the small to medium sized fish. North Atlantic squids, mackerel, turbots, herrings are some of the most preferred prey of the Long Finned Pilot Whales. Like other dolphins, they feed on the other cephalopods.
BEHAVIOUR AND COMMUNICATION
The Long Finned Pilot Whales show strong social culture. These dolphins live in large groups of around 15 to 150 members in which there are small pods of 8 to 12 members. These dolphins are friendly and highly companionable. They socialize not only with the members of their pods but also with short finned pilot whales, common dolphins and with whales.
The Long Finned Pilot Whales communicate by making different sounds like whistles, clicks, buzzes. They produce high frequency sounds, rapid clicks and use echolocation to find their way and search their food in seawater.
While swimming with their groups for long distance, they show their strong bonding and swim in a line. They often jump out of water(spy hopping) . Sometimes they are pictured in relaxed position with grayish belly facing upwards and float on the water surface.
The gestation period is about 12 to 16 months. The female pilot whales reach its maturity at 8 years of age and the male matures around 12 years of age. Mating can occur in any month of the year. The female pilot whale gives birth to the baby every 4 to 5 years and nurses it for 2 to 3 years. Due to their highly social nature, some male pilot whales live with their mothers even after they reach at maturity.
The life span of these dolphins is 35 to 40 years.
THREATS AND CONSERVATION
The Long Finned Pilot Whales are abundant in their natural habitat, but IUCN has listed them as ‘data deficient’.
MASS STRANDING: One of the most notable features of Long Finned Pilot Whale is Mass Stranding. Many times the long finned pilot whales in large numbers are washed on the coasts but the reason is not known. Mass Stranding is very common on the coasts of New Zealand.
Long Finned Pilot Whales are hunted in large numbers on the coasts of Faroe Islands for food, oil. The mass hunt of these dolphins is illegal, but local Faroese people kill them from many years.
Fishery, contamination of sea water, noise pollution, strikes with boats, less food source are major threats to The long Finned Pilot Whales.
These dolphins are protected under MMPA of 1972 ans watch over fishery has started.
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