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Different Dolphin Types: A Complete Guide

Article by Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah

Posted: April 28, 2023

Dolphins are one of the most beloved and fascinating creatures in the ocean. These intelligent and social mammals can be found in all of the world’s oceans, ranging from the shallow coastal waters to the deep offshore canyons. In this article, we’ll explore some of the different dolphin types and learn more about their physical characteristics, behaviours, and habitats.

Common dolphin

The common dolphin (delphinus delphis) is a small dolphin species that can be found in tropical and temperate waters around the world. These dolphins are known for their distinctive hourglass-shaped patterns on their sides and their long beaks. Common dolphins are fast swimmers and often travel in large groups of up to several hundred individuals. They’re known for their acrobatic displays, including leaping, breaching, and tail-slapping.

Bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose dolphins (tursiops truncatus) are perhaps the most well-known dolphin species, thanks to their frequent appearances in popular culture and entertainment. These dolphins have a short, thick beak and a curved dorsal fin. They can be found in warm and temperate waters around the world, from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans. Bottlenose dolphins are highly intelligent and are capable of problem-solving, communication, and even self-awareness.

Spinner dolphin

Spinner dolphins (stenella longirostris) are named for their acrobatic spinning leaps, which can reach up to seven revolutions per jump. These small dolphins can be found in tropical and subtropical waters around the world, often near the coast. They have a slender, streamlined body and a long, narrow beak. Spinner dolphins are highly social and often travel in large groups that can number in the hundreds or even thousands.

Atlantic humpback dolphin

The Atlantic humpback dolphin (sousa teuszii) is a critically endangered dolphin species that’s found only in the coastal waters off West Africa. These dolphins have a distinctive hump on their back and a long, narrow beak. They’re usually found in small groups of two to ten individuals, and they’re known for their friendly and curious nature. Sadly, the Atlantic humpback dolphin is threatened by habitat loss, pollution, and accidental entanglement in fishing nets.

Risso’s dolphin

Risso’s dolphins (grampus griseus) are a large dolphin species that can be found in all of the world’s oceans, from the Arctic to the Antarctic. These dolphins have a stocky body and a blunt head, with a rounded dorsal fin. They’re known for their unique scar patterns, which are caused by the teeth of other dolphins during social interactions. Risso’s dolphins are also known for their deep-diving abilities, and they can reach depths of up to 1,000 metres in search of food.

Pacific white-sided dolphin

The Pacific white-sided dolphin (lagenorhynchus obliquidens) is a small, energetic dolphin species that’s found in the cool waters of the North Pacific. These dolphins have a distinctive black-and-white pattern on their sides and a triangular dorsal fin. They’re highly social and often travel in large groups of up to several hundred individuals. Pacific white-sided dolphins are also known for their playful nature, and they’re often seen riding waves and bow-riding alongside boats.

Where to go to see dolphins

If you’re interested in seeing dolphins in their natural habitat, there are many destinations around the world that offer excellent opportunities for dolphin spotting. One of the best places to see dolphins is the Canary Island of Tenerife, which is located off the coast of West Africa. Tenerife is home to several species of dolphins, including bottlenose dolphins, pilot whales, and short-finned pilot whales. The waters around Tenerife are also protected, making it an ideal destination for dolphin conservation efforts.

Tenerife is also home to several organisations that offer volunteer programs focused on dolphin conservation, including GVI. GVI’s dolphin conservation program in Tenerife allows volunteers to work alongside marine biologists and conservationists to collect data on dolphin populations, monitor their behaviour, and contribute to conservation efforts. Volunteers on this program also have the opportunity to participate in beach clean-ups and other conservation activities, making it an immersive and rewarding experience.

In conclusion, dolphins are a diverse and fascinating group of mammals that can be found in all of the world’s oceans. Each dolphin species has its own unique physical characteristics, behaviours, and habitats, making them a delight to study and observe. However, many dolphin populations are threatened by human activities, including pollution, overfishing, and habitat loss. It’s important that we take action to protect these amazing creatures and their habitats, through conservation efforts such as those offered by GVI in Tenerife. By working together, we can help ensure that dolphins and other marine animals continue to thrive in the oceans for generations to come. So, let’s cherish these magnificent creatures and do our best to protect them.

By Petrina Darrah

Petrina Darrah is a freelance writer from New Zealand with a passion for outdoor adventure and sustainable travel. She has been writing about travel for more than five years and her work has appeared in print and digital publications including National Geographic Travel, Conde Nast Travel, Business Insider, Atlas Obscura and more. You can see more of her work at petrinadarrah.com.
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