Cetacean Society International

Working for whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide

CSI Photo Gallery

Long-finned Pilot Whales

(Globicephala melas)

Pilot whales live in strongly bonded social groups. Their name comes from their behavior of following a leader, or pilot, even into danger. If a sick or lost leader gets too close to shore in a falling tide the whole group of pilot whales may strand on shore. Mass strandings generally occur because of multiple reasons, but the whales are not committing suicide as some people believe. With proper human responses the healthy whales may recuperate and will probably survive if released.
The rounded forehead of a pilot focuses the whale's sounds forward. The echoes returning from squid and other prey allow these whales to hunt in utter darkness more than a thousand feet below the surface. Deep in the ocean, in the "oxygen depletion zone", resident creatures move sluggishly. Air-breathing marine animals that can dive deeply enough can catch slow moving prey more easily here. Even penguins do this!