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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals

  Cetacea · Delphinidae · Globicephala macrorhynchus

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Globicephala macrorhynchus

Short-finned Pilot Whale

Order: Cetacea
Family: Delphinidae

Image of Globicephala macrorhynchus
Click to enlarge. (37 kb)

Conservation Status: Data Deficient.

The short-finned pilot whale is one of two species of the genus Globicephala living in North American waters, mostly in tropical to temperate waters of the continental shelf. "Globicephala" translates directly to the most prominent characteristic of the genus, its round head. Short-finned pilot whales travel in coordinated pods of about 25 individuals. These may be groups of closely related females of all ages and their offspring, plus one or a few adult males. In tropical waters, pods may join together to form large herds, and are sometimes seen "logging," a behavior in which they all face the same direction and bob like floating logs. Presumably they are resting.  Males reach reproductive age at 13 and females at about 8 years. The average life span is about 45 years for males and 55 years for females. One unexplained phenomenon is that groups of these whales sometimes come ashore, strand, and die. Such strandings are relatively common on beaches in the Carolinas, Florida, and the Gulf of Mexico

Also known as:

Blackfish, Pothead, Pacific Pilot Whale, Shortfin Pilot Whale

Sexual Dimorphism:

Males are larger than females.


Average: 5.5 m
Range: 7 m males; 4.3 m females


Range: up to 3,000 kg males; up to 1,500 kg females


Gray, J. E., 1846.  On the cetaceous animals. Pp. 13-53, in The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Erebus and Terror, under the command of Capt. Sir J. C. Ross, R. N., F. R. S., during the years 1839 to 1843 (Sir J. Richardson and J. E. Gray, eds.) [1844-1875], 1:33.  E. W. Janson, London, 2 vols.


Mammal Species of the World (opens in a new window).

Distribution of Globicephala macrorhynchus

Image of Globicephala macrorhynchus
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