Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Family discusses pilot whales sighting in Cozumel

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, one of the highlights of my recent scuba diving trip to Cozumel, Mexico, was running into a pod of pilot whales at the conclusion of morning diving.
One of my dive buddies on the trip, Wayne LeJeune of Lafayette, Louisiana, shot video of the whales swimming alongside, underneath and around our dive boat and surfacing for air.
Wayne promises to send his video to me shortly, and when he does, I will post it here.
I interviewed Wayne, his wife, Lisa, and his daughter Jessica about our unique sighting shortly after we were dropped off at the pier. All of us were still tingling with excitement.
As it turns out, my video was somewhat corrupted, so I was unable to do much editing, but I was still able to piece something together. You can feel the excitement of the sighting on the faces of the LeJeune family. Here is that video:
After doing some research online, I've come to the conclusion that what we saw were short-finned pilot whales. According to the website, a Convention on Migratory Species website, there is also a long-finned pilot whale species, but they generally stick to colder waters. According to Wikipedia, pilot whales are among the largest of the oceanic dolphins, exceeded in size only by the killer whale. Pilot whales are primarily squid eaters, but will feed on fish as well. They are also highly social and studies suggest that both males and females remain in their mothers’ pods, an unusual trait among mammals, also found in certain killer whale communities. Short-finned pilot whales are also one of the few mammal species where females go through menopause and post-reproductive females may contribute to the survival of younger members of their pods.
Both species live in groups of 10-30 but some groups may number 100 or more. According to the CMS website, short-finned pilot whales appear to be generally nomadic, with no fixed migrations, but some north-south movements are related to prey movemens or incursions of warm water.

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