Habitat and distribution
The long-finned pilot whale prefers the continental shelf break, continental and island slope waters, but also areas with complex topography such as seamounts. This species is widely distributed in temperate to sub-polar waters in in the southern hemisphere and in the North Atlantic. In the Mediterranean sea, it occurs mainly in the wester region, including the Strait of Gibraltar, but can be occasionally spotted also in more central areas.
The diet mainly includes squid and other cephalopods, some small to medium-sized fish and occasionally shrimps Long-finned pilot whales tend to feed at night at depths that range from 30 to 500m. Depending on region and prey, dive time can reach 16 minutes. Like other members of the delphinid family, they use echolocation when searching for prey.
Long-finned pilot whales are commonly seen in tight, social pods and sub-groups of 10 to 20 individuals. These animals are nocturnal and spend their daytime hours resting and travelling. They are likely to be more active and socialize during the night, when they feed. They are known to associate with a variety of other dolphin and whale species. These animals communicate acoustically using a complex repertoire of sounds.
Lifespan and reproduction
The lifespan of pilot whales is 35 to 45 years for males and at least 60 years for females. Males become sexually mature at 12 to 13 years and the females at 8 years. Gestation lasts 15 months, and calving happens every 3 to 5 years, giving birth to a single calf during spring or summer. This is one of the longest known birth intervals of all cetaceans.