pilot whale is a medium-sized whale, with an elongated
body, a bulbous forehead and a short, almost imperceptible
beak. In mature males, the rounded forehead overhangs
the snout. The mouth-line is curved upwards, and the
crescentric blowhole is set slightly to the left of
centre on the top of the head.
The dorsal fin is prominent and falcate, with a low
profile, and long base and is located relatively far
forward on the back (about a third of the way back from
the head). In adult males, the dorsal fin may have a
thicker leading edge and rounder form than in females.
Flippers are very long and slender, with pointed tips
and an angled leading edge forming an ‘elbow’.
The tail stock has a thick keel. Tail flukes are pointed
at the tips with a concave trailing edge and a deep
Pilot whales are almost completely black in colour.
New-born and immature animals may be slightly lighter
in colour, and younger whales are often slightly spotted
with grey. Most adults have scars, ranging from squid
sucker marks to tooth scars caused by interactions
with conspecifics. Individual variation in the colouration
of pilot whales is known to occur; adults generally
have light markings on the throat and belly and sometimes
behind the dorsal fin and eye, typically a long anchor-shaped
ventral patch, dorsal saddle and eye blaze are noted.
The grey dorsal saddle is found just behind the dorsal
fin and can measure more than 1 m in length, tapering
to a point towards the tail. The eye blaze is a narrow,
elongated patch up to 20 cm long behind the eye. The
dorsal fin saddles and eye blaze are not as distinctive
in animals from the North Atlantic as those found
in the Southern Hemisphere. These colour patterns
are not very useful for individual identification,
due to the fact that they are often indistinct and
difficult to see in the field.
The number of teeth is variable but there are usually
9 to 12 in each row (around 40 total). The teeth are
sharp and pointed, but may become worn with age