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The Pilot Whale - BlackFish  Genus Globiocephahis.

The Pilot Whale - BlackFish
Genus Globiocephahis.
 


The Pilot Whale - BlackFish Copyright Stan Klos


The blackfish (Olobiocephalus fnelas) derives its English name from its nearly uniform black coloration, while its generic title refers to the characteristic globular form of the head. In size this species is one of the largest representatives of the family, attaining a length of about 20 feet.

In addition to its beakless globular head, the blackfish is characterised by the long, low, and thick back-fin, the long and narrow flippers, and the small size and number of the teeth, which are confined to the front of the jaws. The usual number of the teeth is from eight to twelve on each side of the jaws, but in a distinct variety or species from the Bay of Bengal they are rather fewer. The skull is very broad and much depressed: and the union between the two branches of the lower jaw veiy short. In the typical form there is a large spear-shaped white area on the chest, extending from the comers of the mouth to the flippers. This white area is, however, absent in certain forms, which have been regarded as indicating distinct species.

The ordinary blackfish has a wide distribution, having been obtained from the coasts of Europe, the Atlantic coast of North America, the Cape of Good Hope, and New Zealand. Mr. True considers, however, that the blackfish of the North Pacific (G. scammoni), and also the one found on the Atlantic coast to the south of New Jersey, are distinct species; and there is also some evidence of the existence of a fourth in the Bay of Bengal. In Europe

Distribution: The blacktish or, as it is often called, the pilot-whale, or ca'ing whale, is a frequent although irregular visitant to the British coasts; and it occasionally extends as far north as Greenland. In the Mediterranean it appears to be rare.  The blackfish is the most gregarious of all the Cetaceans, assembling in herds which frequently comprise from two hundred to three hundred individuals, and occasionally include as many as one thousand or even two thousand. The members of a herd always blindly follow a leader, after the manner of a flock of sheep, and from this strange habit the species derives its names of pilot-whale and ca'ing ( = driving) whale. Curiously enough, if the leader of a herd happen to run into shoal-water and become stranded, the other members follow suit; and in this way large numbers are often captured by the inhabitants of Iceland and the Faroe, Orkney, and Shetland Islands. In disposition this species is mild and gentle, and thus offei's a marked contrast to the killer. Its chief and favourite food is cuttle-fish, but it is said also to eat fish. The young, of which there is generally but one at a birth, are said to be born in the late summer, and suckled throughout the winter.



Regarding their capture in the islands of the North Sea and Atlantic, the late Prof. Bell writes that, on the appearance of a herd, " the whole fishing squadron of the neighbourhood is put into requisition, each boat being provided with a quantity of stones. The first object is to get to seaward of the victims, then the boats are formed into a large semicircle, and the whole herd is driven into some bay or creek. The stones are thrown to splash and frighten the whales if they try to break back ; and in Faroe ropes are stretched from boat to boat, with wisps of straw hung at intervals. Should one whale break through the line all is lost, as the rest will follow it in spite of every exertion of the fishermen. But if they are forced into shallow water, they plunge wildly on till they strand themselves, and then the whole population rush upon them, armed with harpoons, spears, hatchets, picks, spades,—any weapon that comes to hand,—and the cries and dying struggles of the poor animals, the shouts of the men, the clash of the weapons, and the bloody and troubled sea combine to form an extremely exciting, if somewhat revolting scene." It is stated that in this manner no less than 1110 blackfish were captured in Iceland in the winter of 1809-10, while upwards of 2080 were taken in Faroe within a period of six weeks during the year 1845 -
The Royal Natural History: Mammals, birds By Richard Lydekker - 1895 Edited by Stanley L. Klos 1999


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