Pilot whales are cetaceans belonging to the genus Globicephala. The two extant species are the long-finned pilot whale (G. melas) and the short-finned pilot whale (G. macrorhynchus). The two are not readily distinguishable at sea, and analysis of the skulls is the best way to distinguish between the species. Between the two species, they range nearly worldwide, with long-finned pilot whales living in colder waters and short-finned pilot whales living in tropical and subtropical waters. Pilot whales are among the largest of the oceanic dolphins, exceeded in size only by the killer whale. They and other large members of the dolphin family are also known as blackfish.
Pilot whales primarily eat squid, but also various fishes. They are highly social and may remain with their birth pod throughout their lifetime. Short-finned pilot whales are one of the few mammal species in which females go through menopause, and postreproductive females continue to contribute to their pod. Pilot whales are notorious for stranding themselves on beaches, and several theories have been hypothesized to account for this behavior. The conservation status of both species has not been determined, but bycatch and hunting are modern threats to one or both species.