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Globicephala melas

Long-finned Pilot Whale

Order: Cetacea
Family: Delphinidae

Image of Globicephala melas
Globicephala melas - inset: male, left; female, right
Click to enlarge. (41 kb)

Conservation Status: Data Deficient.

Long-finned pilot whales live in the cool waters of the North Atlantic continental shelf and slope. Pods move seasonally inshore or offshore following their prey, mainly squid and Atlantic mackerel. Population estimates have been made since at least 1952, and the animals seem to be abundant. A census during the late 1980s found nearly 800,000 in the northeastern Atlantic eastward from Greenland. Long-finned pilot whales are slightly less than 2 m long and weigh about 75 kg at birth. Males continue growing rapidly until they are about 20 years old, are 5.5 m in length, and weigh 1,700 kg. A fully grown adult male can measure 6.25 m and weigh 2,320 kg. Females are smaller, reaching a length of 5.12 m and a weight of 1,320 kg. They are sexually mature when they are 8 years old, and typically give birth to one calf every five years and nurse it for three years. Their tendency to form close-knit pods of 10-15 individuals, which are often loosely connected to other pods and may form groups in the hundreds, worked against these animals: traditional whalers learned to “drive” hundreds of whales into shallow waters where they could be easily slaughtered.

Also known as:
Pothead, Blackfish, Caa'ing Whale, Grindhval

Sexual Dimorphism:
Males are larger than females.

Average: 6.3 m males; 5.1 m females

Average: 2,320 kg males; 1,320 kg females


Traill, 1809.  Nicholson's J. Nat. Philos. Chem. Arts, 22:81.


Mammal Species of the World

Distribution of Globicephala melas