Are Pilot Whales Dangerous? The pilot whale, like the killer whale, is a member of the dolphin family and is second only to the killer whale in size. Displaying intelligence equal to that of the bottlenose dolphin, the pilot whale is easily trained. One captive pilot whale named Morgan was trained by Navy scientists to retrieve beeper-attached objects from the ocean floor at depths of over 1,600 feet. Carrying a clamping recovery device in his mouth, he attached it to the located object, which was then raised to the surface by compressed air balloons.
The pilot whale is extremely social and is well known for standing in groups of a few animals to several hundred at a time. would you think Are Pilot Whales Dangerous?
SPECIES:melas (long-finned) and macrorhynchus (short-finned)
Physical Description of pilot whale
The pilot whale has a distinctly rounded head with a very slight beak and an up-curved mouthline. In males, the rounded head may protrude up to 4 inches over the lower jaw. Its body is long and stocky, narrowing along the caudal peduncle (tailstock).
Generally all black to coal grey, the pilot whale has a white or light grey anchor-shaped patch on its ventral (bottom) surface. The short-finned pilot whale has a faint grey saddle patch behind the dorsal (top) fin.
Fins and Fluke
It’s prominent dorsal (top) fin is located on the forward part of its back and is falcate (strongly curved) with a long base. Its flippers are sickle shape and, in the long-finned pilot whale, very long.
Length and Weight
Males are much larger than females. Adult males measure up to 20 feet (6.1 m) and weigh up to 3 tons. Adult females measure up to 16 feet (4.9 m) and weigh up to 1.5 tons.
The pilot whale feeds primarily on squid, although it’s known to eat octopus, cuttlefish, herring and other small fish when squid is unavailable. It has only 40 to 48 teeth, compared to 120 in many other dolphin species. This may represent an evolutionary trend toward fewer teeth in squid eaters. Its teeth are using only for catching/grasping. An adult pilot whale may eat up to 30 pounds per day. In Newfoundland, pilot whales have been seen hunting in groups to help concentrate their prey. One pod was observed entering a bay in a line, slowly closing the line into a circle, and trapping the prey in the centre. Powerful high-pitched whistles appear to be involved in coordinating this activity.
Mating and Breeding
Males reach sexual maturity at about 15 to 16 feet (4.6 m) and 12 years of age. Females reach sexual maturity at about 12 feet (3.7 m) and 6 to 7 years of age. Gestation lasts approximately 12 to15 months and calving occurs once every 3 to 5 years. Calves are generally 6 feet (1.8 m) at birth and weigh about 225 pounds. The calf nurses for up to 22 months, with some evidence for longer lactation and extensive mother-calf bonds.
Most calves are born in the summer, though some calving occurs throughout the year. The males may compete for mates with fights involving butting, biting, and ramming. Mating also involves these activities, and some females carry scars from bites inflicted by males during the breeding season. Females have been observed to have calves as late as 35 years old, and lactate as late as 51. This evidence indicates that females may nurse their last calf until puberty (up to 10 years in males).
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