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In appearance, the short-finned pilot whale is almost identical to the long-finned pilot whale. At sea, it is very difficult to tell the difference between them. However, the flippers are of a different length, the two species have different numbers of teeth, and their skulls are shaped somewhat differently. The short-finned pilot whale prefers warmer waters, though, so there is virtually no overlap in their ranges. Groups have often been seen with bottlenose dolphins, but individuals attacking bottlenoses have also been observed. In general, these animals are gregarious, with whole pods having been seen logging. They allow boats to approach them. Lobtailing and spyhopping have sometimes been observed, as well as surfing on ocean swells. Short-finned pilot whales rarely breach. Feeding occurs mostly at night. In coloration, they range from jet black to dark gray. The sickle dorsal fin is on the foreward half of the body. The body is stocky and elongated.

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