Pilot whales are so named because it was once believed that each observed group was navigated by a pilot or leader. Their Latin name, Globicephala, means ‘round head’, which is one of the main identifying features of the species. The bulbous head and thick curved dorsal fin become even more pronounced in adult males, who become easy to distinguish from females and juveniles. While normally oceanic in their distribution, pilot whales can also approach coastal areas, and are frequently seen on whale watching tours around the world. They are rewarding to watch, as they are generally approachable and impressive in size and behaviour. There are two species of pilot whales: Short finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), which are mainly found in tropical and warm-temperate regions, and long-finned pilot whales (G. melas), which inhabit colder waters and are further subdivided into three sub-species: the Southern long-finned pilot whale (G. m. edwardii), the North Atlantic long-finned pilot whale (G. m. melas), and the now extinct North Pacific long-finned pilot whale (G. m. un-named subsp.)1.
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