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Foraging in short-finned pilot whales


Researchers gained insights into the diet of short-finned pilot whales using several methods: by analysing the stomach contents of stranded and hunted animals or by directly observing free-ranging animals during foraging behaviors. Cephalopod remains such as undigestible beaks can be found in pilot whale faeces and are further food indicators. Indirect and more uncertain methods are skin pigmentation lesions indicating cephalopod tentacle attachments and acoustic observations gained from transmitters being attached to the animals. The main diet of short-finned pilot whales consists of cephalopods.


The two photographs show a pilot whale with a cephalopod tentacle attached to its lower jaw. It is believed that during breaching behavior ( the animals try to get rid of such attachments. Newest research showed that during 20 minute long and more than 1,000m deep dives ( short-finned pilot whales apparantly search and hunt for giant squids.


Click to see a pilot whale defecating
(.mov file with 1.7 MB).