Which Dolphins Live In North America?


Dolphin blowhole

You can see dolphins in many places in North America and I wanted to find out exactly which species are common. I was surprised to find how many species of dolphins there are.

There are sixteen species of dolphins which can be found around North America.

  • Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
  • Atlantic White-sided Dolphin
  • Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Clymene Dolphin
  • False Killer Whale
  • Fraser’s Dolphin
  • Killer Whale
  • Long-beaked
  • Common Dolphin
  • Pacific White-sided Dolphin
  • Pantropical Spotted Dolphin
  • Pygmy Killer Whale
  • Rough-toothed Dolphin
  • Short-beaked Common Dolphin
  • Spinner Dolphin
  • Striped Dolphin
  • White-Beaked Dolphin.

If you would like more details of these species, then please read on.

Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

Atlantic spotted dolphin
Atlantic spotted dolphin

Also known as the spotter porpoise, the Atlantic spotted dolphin has a large body, growing from 5.6-7.5 ft (1.7-2.3m). Their weight is between 220-315 lb, with females slightly smaller.

The Atlantic spotted dolphin has a long beak that is stubby, separated from the melon with a crease. They are spotted on the sides when they are adults and generally have a color pattern that is three-toned.

The dorsal fin is tall and centered in the middle. They can be seen in pods of 50, although most are seen in small groups of 5-15.

Atlantic White-sided Dolphin

The Atlantic white-sided dolphin grows from 6.2-9.2ft (1.9-2.8m) with a weight between 360-520 lb. They are similar in coloration to the common dolphin, with gray, white and yellow along the flanks, and a white underside. 

The Atlantic white-sided dolphin has a dark-gray stripe from the eye to the flipper, and a dark dorsal fin and flippers. They give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of 11 months.

Bottlenose Dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphin

The common bottlenose dolphin grows from 6.2-13.1 ft (1.9-4m). Their diet consists mainly of squid and small fish. They have a single calf with a gestation period of 12 months.

Bottlenose dolphins are gray to black, with a lighter underside and a dorsal cape. They have a short beak with a mouthline that makes them look like they are smiling. The common bottlenose dolphin is the dolphin that you will most likely have seen in television or films.

For more information on bottlenose dolphins, please check out 101 facts I have compiled. You can find it here.

Clymene Dolphin

The Clymene dolphin is also called the short-snouted spinner dolphin. They can spin while out of the air, with rotations lower than the spinner dolphin at three to four.

The Clymene dolphins are a small species, with a three-toned color pattern, a dark cape on their dorsal which dips below the find, and a gray stripe which is paler from the eyes to the flipper.

These dolphins grow from 5.9-6.6 ft (1.2-2m) and weigh 165-200 lb. They eat small fish and squid and produce a single calf.

Have you ever wondered why dolphins jump out of the water. You can find out in this article I have written here.

False Killer Whale

False Killer Whale
False Killer Whale

The false killer whale is medium size measuring 14-20 ft (4.3-6.1m) weighing 1.2-2.5 tons. They are black or dark gray, with a long body and a conical head.

The dorsal fin of the false killer whale is towards the middle of their back, and they have flippers with an elbow shape. They are generally seen in groups of 10-60 animals and can be seen interacting with other cetaceans such as bottlenose dolphins.

Due to their social structure, mass strandings of the false killer whale can be common, with the largest involving over 1,000 animals.

Fraser’s Dolphin

Fraser dolphins

The Fraser’s dolphin is named after Francis Charles Fraser; a cetologist found a skeleton in the British Museum. They grow from 6.6-8.9ft (2-2.7m), with a weight of 290-460 lb.

Some of Fraser’s dolphin has a mask, with a distinctive pinkish underside to their body and jaw. They have a bluish-gray or brownish-gray upperside, with a dark band running along the face.

Frasers’ dolphins are generally seen in large schools of 50-100, although herds of several thousand have been spotted.

Killer Whale

Killer Whale

The killer whale is also commonly known as the Orca, a name taken from its binomial name of Orcinus orca. Killer whales are the largest members of the dolphin family, growing from 6 to 8 meters long and weight of 5.9 tons. Females of the species are smaller than males.

They are one of the fastest marine mammals due to their size and incredible strength, reaching speeds up to 56 km/h. They have a black upper side with a white underside.

Long-beaked Common Dolphin

The long-beaked common dolphin grows between 6.2-8.5 ft (1.9-2.6m) and weighs between 155-220 lb. They can be seen in herds between 10 and 10,000, and bow-ride in front of boats.

The long-beaked common dolphins have a single calf after a gestation period of 10-11 months. They have a long beak, with a dark cape on the dorsal side, with a ‘v’ under the fin.

They have a white underside with yellow or tan patches on the side. They are similar to the short-beaked common dolphin, but their colors are more muted, with a less bulging melon at the front.

Long-Beaked Common Dolphin

Pacific White-Sided Dolphin

The Pacific white-sided dolphin grows from 7.5-8.2ft (2.3-2.5m) with weights between 360-440 lbs.

The Pacific white-sided dolphin can be found around the San Juan Islands and Puget Sound, Alaska, Olympic Coast, California, Vancouver Island, and Baja California.

They have a pattern of gray and black along the flank with dark flippers and flukes. They have a lighter underside, with a white lower jaw. They give birth to a single calf after 12 months.

Pacific white sided dolphin
Pacific white sided dolphin

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin

The Pantropical spotted dolphin has a slender body, with a narrow beak and whitish lips. There is a crease between the beak and the melon, and a dark stripe from the beak to the flipper.

Pantropical Spotted Dolphin

The Pantropical spotted dolphin grows from 5.2-8.5 ft (1.6-2.6m) with weights of 265 lbs. They are heavily spotted on the sides with a gray cape on the dorsal side and a light underside.

The Pantropical spotted dolphin was one of the species caught most by tuna fishermen in the past.

Pygmy Killer Whale

The pygmy killer whale is small, measuring between 6.9-8.5 ft (2.1-2.6m) with a weight between 240-500 lb.

They are dark-gray to black, with a dark cape from behind their dorsal fin to the top of their head. They have a gray or white patch on the underside, and some have a white chin and light-colored lips.

Pygmy killer whales have a tall dorsal fin. They live and travel in groups of 12-50, although they are rarely seen. The species normally avoid boats but will sometimes bow-ride and wake-ride.

Rough-toothed Dolphin

Rough-toothed dolphin
Rough-toothed dolphin

The rough-toothed dolphin has a dark gray body, with a cape along the dorsal area. They have pink or white blotches on the side and underneath. They have a fairly long beak and a conical head with whitish lips.

The rough-toothed dolphin grows from 6.8-9.2 ft (2.1-2.8m), with the females slightly smaller than the males. Their diet consists mainly of fish and squid. They can be found in the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of California and can be seen in pods of 10-20.

Short-beaked Common Dolphin

Short-beaked Common Dolphin
Short-beaked Common Dolphin

The short-beaked common dolphin is also known as the common porpoise. Males are slightly larger than females with sizes between 5.2-8.9 ft (1.6-2.7m) and a weight of 155-440 lbs.

They are fast swimmers and can be seen bow-riding alongside ships. Herds of this species can be seen in sizes ranging from ten up to ten thousand.

True to their name, the short-beaked common dolphin has a short beak with a dark cape with a ‘v’ shape under the fin. Along with their short beak, they have a white underside and yellow or tan patches on their sides.

Spinner Dolphin

Spinner-dolphin
Spinner-dolphin

The spinner dolphin is named for its aerobatics. They are fast swimmers and are known to bow-ride. The spinner dolphin can spin up to seven times in the air before re-entering the water.

They are slender weighing between 130-180 lbs. They grow from 4.3-7.9 ft (1.3-2.4m) long.

Spinner dolphins have a color pattern that is three-toned with a dark stripe from the eye to the flipper. Their beak is long with a dark tip and a sloping melon.

Some males have a forward-leaning dorsal fin, which is tall and erect. The spinner dolphin was the second most affected dolphin by tuna fishing after the Pantropical spotted dolphin.

Striped Dolphin

Striped-dolphin
Striped-dolphin

The striped dolphin takes their name from the dark stripes that run down the sides of their bodies. They have a gray or blue-gray cape on the dorsal side, with stripes from the eye to the flipper along their sides.

Striped dolphins have stripes with colors of pink and blue on their sides. They grow from 5.9-8.9 ft (1.8-2.7m) and weight from 200-360 lbs.

Striped dolphins have some amazing behaviors, able to leap up to 23 ft, with belly flops and somersaults seeming no trouble. They also roto-tail when they come out of the water. This involves moving their tails in circles as they leap out of the water.

White-beaked Dolphin

White beaked dolphin
White beaked dolphin

The white-beaked dolphin is very large compared to most species of dolphins. They can grow from 7.9-10.2 ft, weighing from 400-770 lbs.

Along with their white beak, they have white, black, and gray markings, with their tail usually paler. They have a white patch on each side.

The flippers are mostly dark, with a brown or gray tip. They can be found in the St Lawrence River, the Gulf of St Lawrence, and around Newfoundland.

If you have ever wondered why dolphins swim alongside boats, you can find an article I have written here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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