Short-finned pilot whale

Globicephala macrorhynchus
Short-finned pilot whale


Size: max 3.6-7.2m

Key features:
- Jet black or grey in colour
- Rounded, bulbous forehead
- Nose looks like a smurfs hat or witch’s nose
- Fin set forward on the body

At sea this animal is virtually impossible to tell apart from the long-finned pilot whale unless the pectoral fins are seen. The main differences between the long and short-finned pilot whale are the length of the pectoral fins, the shape of the skull and the number of teeth.


As short-finned pilot whales feed at night they are typically seen moving slowly at the surface during the day allowing boats to approach them. They are also seen sometimes lob-tailing, spy-hopping and breaching. They are very social animals and are almost never seen alone. When swimming together they swim in long ‘chorus lines’ and are frequently accompanied by bottlenose dolphins.


Unlike long-finned pilot whales, short-finned pilot whales like deep warm temperate to tropical waters worldwide. Some do overlap with the long-finned pilot whale in southern parts of the North Atlantic. The species tend to stay offshore unless their prey of squid re spawning in which case they may move inshore.


The short-finned pilot whale is captured for aquaria around the world. It is also targeted in Japanese drive fisheries and hunts. Other threats include; entanglement in fishing nets and noise pollution.

Sightings Map

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