Globicephala macrorhynchus


Short-finned pilot whales are part of the Delphinidae family, as are common dolphins and false killer whales, and are one of two species of the genus Globicephala. They are similar to their relative, the long-finned pilot whale, and can be differentiated by its more robust body a slightly shorter flippers.


Physical description and behaviour:

Males reach 7.2 m and females tend to be shorter, reaching 5.5 m. Both are of black or dark brownish-grey colour, apart from a light grey anchor-shaped chest patch, a pair of parallel slanting light streaks and a grey saddle behind the dorsal fin. The species has a bulbous head which may appear square in adult males. It also has an indistinct beak, long sickle-shaped flippers and a falcate, low dorsal fin located one-third of the way from the head. The flippers are smaller than 20% of the body length, which is shorter than their relatives the long-finned pilot whales.

The species is very sociable and are adapted to mainly feed on squid due to their reduced tooth count – linked with suction feeding (Werth, 2000) – although they can also feed on fish.


Distribution and abundance:

Short-finned pilot whales’ distribution is thought to depend on seasonal and annual changes in productivity and temperature (Pardo et al., 2013). They can indeed be found in tropical to warm temperate seas worldwide, and are common in the West Indies, Azores and Canaries. They rarely range north of 50°N and are though to hardly be present north of Africa, although it could be overlooked due to their similarities with long-finned pilot whales. Indeed, several individuals were found stranded in the south-west Atlantic French coast between 1966 and 2012.


IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ Assessment

  • LC (Least Concern) globally, last assessed in 2018, population trend unknown


Assessment information
CMS InstrumentsASCOBANS, ACCOBAMS, Western African Aquatic Mammals, Pacific Islands Cetaceans
IUCN StatusLeast concern

No pictures for Globicephala macrorhynchus

Common names
EnglishShort-Finned Pilot Whale
Scientific name Globicephala macrorhynchus
Other details
Additional notesUpdates have been made in August 2021 as per European Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises by Peter G. H. Evans (2020) unless stated otherwise.