Notes on the short-finned pilot whale stranding at Wavecrest

The scientific name of the short-finned pilot whale is Globicephala macrorhynchus, from the globe-shaped head (globicephala) and the large beak (macrorhynchus). Males can grow to a length of 7.2 m and females to 5.5 m, weighing up to 4 tons.

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Female short-finned pilot whale stranded at Wavecrest
Picture: K. Cole

The 3.85m whale above stranded at Wavecrest (Wild Coast, South Africa) on Sunday, 2nd June 2013.

These whales have been known to dive to depths of 500m and of dives can be up to 15 minutes. Squid is a preferred food source with up to seven different species being preyed upon.It is not known how many short-finned pilot whales swim in the southern African subregion.

A necropsy undertaken on the animal involves removing segments of blubber to reveal the muscle, cutting through this and the skeleton in a methodical manner to open up the body cavity to reveal the internal organs. Greg Hofmeyr, curator of marine mammals at Bayworld Museum is experienced in this technique.

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Greg Hofmeyr and Kevin Cole working on the pilot whale. Sean Pike who reported the stranding is in the background.

Although short-finned pilot whales are more readily found in tropical waters the poleward movement of the strong Agulhas current (down the east coast of South Africa) brings them into the southern African subregion.

This is a first record of the species for the East London Museum.

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About East London Museum Science

Conservation Biologist East London Museum South Africa
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