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Dolphins

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Dolphin Facts: Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are Cetaceans and belong to the Order Cetacea. In total, there are over 80 species of cetaceans worldwide, and many of them are under threat.

Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are divided into two main groups: the Mysticetes or ‘baleen whales’; and the Odontocetes or ‘toothed whales’.  All dolphins have teeth, and belong to the family Delphinidae, or ‘dolphin’ family.

Dolphins vary in appearance, size, habitat and food preferences, as well as the number and size of teeth. Additionally, some of the largest members of the dolphin family like the Orca (or Killer whale) are referred to as whales because of their size – only. Orcas are actually members of the dolphin family.

All dolphins are mammals, meaning they are air-breathing, warm-blooded, and they nurse their offspring. Similarly to humans, dolphins are highly intelligent and exhibit strong social bonds within groups. Furthermore, they communicate with one another using a complex system of clicks and whistles. 

At the top of the food chain, dolphins play an important role in marine and freshwater ecosystems. Unfortunately, dolphins are under threat for various reasons including habitat degradation, pollution, incidental capture in fisheries, commercial harvest, as well as depletion of prey species.

But how many types of dolphins are there? Watch this quick eHow video featuring Maddalena Bearzi to find out more dolphin facts!

Want to learn more about the emotions of dolphins?

Dolphin facts | Bottlenose Dolphins

The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) is the most common and perhaps most widely recognized species of dolphin. It is distributed worldwide in warm temperate and tropical seas, both near and offshore.  In general, bottlenose are robust in size and grey overall in color, with lighter colored bellies. Adult bottlenose dolphins range between 8-12 feet in length and weigh 500-1400 pounds. 

Dolphin facts | River Dolphins

The lesser known river dolphins differ physically from their oceanic counterparts. Designed to survive in murky river and estuarine environments, they have poorly developed eyesight and instead rely almost exclusively on echolocation to ‘see’ their environment and locate prey.

Worldwide, river dolphins are found only in the Amazon, Ganges, Indus, Mekong, and Yangtze rivers. These types of dolphins are under serious threat from human activities including construction of dams, entanglement in fishing gear, and pollution. Overall river dolphin populations are declining rapidly. 

Dolphin facts | Orca (Killer) Whales

Orcas are not actually whales but the largest member of the dolphin family Delphinidae. Orcas first got their name from sailors who witnessed them attacking large whales. They live in tight social groups, hunting together and can reach lengths of 30 feet and weigh between 8 to 9 tons.

Find more facts about Orcas

Dolphin facts | Spinner Dolphins

Spinner dolphins are the most social species of dolphin. They are noticed mainly for their incredible jumps, spins and flips.

Spinner dolphins average a size of 6-7 feet long, weighing between 130 and 170 pounds. These dolphins are slender and often have a long, dark grey stripe that runs along their sides. The average size for a Spinner Dolphin is from 6 to 7 feet in length.

Spinner dolphins can often be found in the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic oceans. They are considered endangered due to pollution.

Dolphin facts | Striped Dolphins

Striped dolphins are extremely active and vocal. They are the only species of dolphin that can roto-tail – meaning they can jump up to 20 feet out of the water and quickly rotating their tail. Striped dolphins are a blue color with a light stripe pattern. This species can grow up to 9 feet in length and weigh up to 350 pounds.

Striped dolphins are found in warmer oceans, including the Gulf of Mexico. They are not considered endangered at this time.

Famous Quotes about Dolphins:

  • The happiness of the bee and the dolphin is to exist. For man it is to know that and to wonder at it. – Jacques Yves Cousteau
  • When I see a dolphin, I know it’s just as smart as I am. – Captain Beefheart
  • No aquarium, no tank in a marine land, however spacious it may be, can begin to duplicate the conditions of the sea. And no dolphin who inhabits one of those aquariums or one of those marine lands can be considered normal. – Jacques Yves Cousteau
  • Cultures have long heard wisdom in non-human voices: Apollo, god of music, medicine and knowledge, came to Delphi in the form of a dolphin. But dolphins, which fill the oceans with blipping and chirping, and whales, which mew and caw in ultramarine jazz – a true rhapsody in blue – are hunted to the edge of silence. – Jay Griffiths

Dolphin Conservation

Many organizations work proactively to protect dolphins and their habitats around the world. Here are some great dolphin conservation organizations:

More dolphin facts, and other helpful conservation links & articles


Interested in actively helping dolphins in the wild<


Under 18? Check out this summer camp alternative in Mexico that saves dolphins and other marine animals<

Dolphins