Pilot whale (Long finned) Globicephala melas
Species: G. melas
Binomial name: Globicephala melas
Common name: Long finned pilot whale, They were once called a 'pothead', as the bulbous head was thought to resemble a black cooking pot by the early whalers.
Globicephala melas is one of the largest species of dolphin. There are two distinct populations or subspecies of long-finned pilot whales are recognized: Southern Hemisphere (Globicephala melas edwardii), North Atlantic (Globicephala melas melas). They very social animals and live in large schools of hundreds of animals separated into close knit pods of 10-20 individuals. They often associate with other cetaceans. Globicephala melas because of their strong group cohesion, they are one of the most common species to mass strand. In New Zealand strandings of the long finned pilot whales occur in stranding hotspots such as the coastline of Doubtless Bay, Ninety Mile Beach, Fairwell Spit and Stewart Island. In 1998 Doughboy Bay, western Stewart Island, was the scene of 328 pilot whales stranding.
The sexes are dimorphic, with females reaching lengths of up to 5.8 meters and 1,300 kg, while males are significantly larger at up to 7.6 meters and 2,300 kg. Females reach sexual maturity at about 3.7 m and 6 to 7 years of age. Males need about twice as long to reach sexual maturity at about 4.6 m and 12 years of age. The males live for 35-45 years while the female live up to 60 years.
They are a dark black in colour, but sometimes can appear grey or brownish, with grey or white marks. This species has pale greyish or whitish stripe diagonally behind the eye, a white saddle patch behind the dorsal fin and an anchor-shaped patch that starts at the throat and extends to the uro-genital region on its ventral side.
Their head has a large bulbous "melon". This melon (bulging, fatty forehead of a toothed cetacean) varies with age and sex. They have a single central blow hole. The low-profile, thick, lobed dorsal fin is heavily curved and is located about a third of the body length behind the head. As the animals mature, their dorsal fin becomes broader and rounder.
Globicephala melas have a pair of long, tapered, sickle-shaped pectoral flippers that give them their common name of 'Long finned pilot whales '. When at the surface, pods will often display various active behaviours such as "breaching", "fluking", "lobtailing", and "spyhopping".
Long-finned pilot whales, like all marine mammals, are protected under the MMPA.CITES Appendix II - throughout its range.
Video courtesy of Errol Pascoe Long finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) passing the Maui gas platform
A video of a New Zealand stranding.
Visit the this link to read a report on long-finned pilot whale strandings in New Zealand. http://www.doc.govt.nz/Documents/science-and-technical/SciencePoster52.pdf
Globicephala melas (Long finned pilot whale)