MarLIN

information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Long-finned pilot whale (Globicephala melas)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.

Summary

Description

The long-finned pilot whale Globicephala melas is a toothed whale and can be recognised as such by the single blowhole and the presence of teeth (rather than baleen). It is a member of the dolphin family with a characteristic prominent median notch in the flukes, a smooth crease-less throat and sharply pointed teeth. The long-finned pilot whale reaches up to 6.7 m in length. It has long and slender flippers and small tail flukes. The dorsal fin is low and broad-based and located on the forward third of the back. The head is conspicuously bulbous. It is very dark grey to black in colour above and on the sides but white underneath.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found around the coasts of Britain and Ireland except south-east England and much of western Ireland.

Global distribution

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Habitat

The long-finned pilot whale is an offshore species but may also be found inshore. Although it may dive down to 600 m it usually descends up to 60 m in depth.

Depth range

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Identifying features

  • Up to 6.7 m in length.
  • Low, broad-based and blunt-tipped dorsal fin located on the forward third of the back.
  • Dorsally and laterally dark grey to black in colour with light grey saddle behind the dorsal fin.
  • Long slender flippers up to a quarter of the total body length.
  • Round globular head without a beak.
  • Upsloping mouthline.

Additional information

Long-finned pilot whales are usually found in large groups of up to 1000 individuals. The blow may be up to 1 m tall. Dives may last up to 10 minutes long (Kinze, 2002).

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Further information sources

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Bibliography

  1. Bruyns, W.F.J.M., 1971. Field guide of whales and dolphins. Amsterdam: Publishing Company Tors.

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. Jefferson, T.A., Leatherwood, S. & Webber, M.A., 1994. FAO species identification guide. Marine mammals of the world. Rome: United Nations Environment Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

  4. Kinze, C. C., 2002. Photographic Guide to the Marine Mammals of the North Atlantic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from: http://www.nbnatlas.org.  Accessed 01 April 2017

  6. OBIS,  2017. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2017-11-22

  7. Reid. J.B., Evans. P.G.H., Northridge. S.P. (ed.), 2003. Atlas of Cetacean Distribution in North-west European Waters. Peterborough: Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

Citation

This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Globicephala melas Long-finned pilot whale. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. Available from: http://www.marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/113

Last Updated: 02/06/2008