top of page

COMMON DOLPHIN Delphinus delphis


Short-beaked common dolphins, like all marine mammals, are protected under the MMPA -The Marine Mammal Protection Act

Endangered by IUCN




Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Cetacea

Family: Delphinidae

Genus: Delphinus

Species: delphis



Species Description

Weight:about 440 lbs (200 kg)

Length:about 9 ft (2.7 m)

Appearance: distinct bright colouration and

patterns: a dark gray cape along the back

that creates a "V" just below the dorsal fin

on either side of the body, they are yellow

along the flank, between the dark cape

and white ventral patch

Lifespan:about 35 years

Diet:fish, mostly "epipelagic" schooling fish

and cephalopods (e.g., squid)



Short-beaked common dolphins are small dolphins under 9 ft (2.7 m) long and weigh about 440 lbs (200 kg). As adults, males are slightly larger than females. They have a rounded "melon", moderately long beak, and a sleek but robust body with a tall, pointed, triangular, "falcate" "dorsal" fin located in the middle of the back.

This species can be identified by its distinct bright colouration and patterns. A dark gray cape extends along the back from the beak and creates a "V" just below the dorsal fin on either side of the body. There is a yellow/tan panel along the flank, between the dark cape and white ventral patch, forward of the dorsal fin. 

Short-beaked dolphins are usually found in large social groups averaging hundreds of individuals, but have occasionally been seen in larger herds consisting of thousands of animals (up to at least 10,000), which are known as "mega-pods." These large schools are thought to consist of sub-groups of 20-30 individuals that are possibly related or separated by age and/or sex.

Short-beaked common dolphins are often active at the surface displaying various behaviors. They will often approach ships and even large whales to "bowride" for long periods of time.

Short-beaked common dolphins are capable of diving to at least 650 ft (200 m) to feed on fish from the deep scattering layer at night, and usually rest during the day. The majority of their prey is "epipelagic" schooling fish and cephalopods (e.g., squid). 

They have also been observed in schools with striped dolphins.

This species has 40-57 pairs of small sharp conical teeth in each jaw.

Males become sexually mature between 3-12 years and females between 2-7 years.

Breeding usually takes place between the months of June and September, followed

by a 10-11 month gestation period. Females give birth to a single calf that is about

2.5-3 ft (0.8-0.9 m) long, and have an estimated calving interval of 1-3 years. Calving

can occur annually and lactation lasts approximately 4 months. They have an estima-

ted lifespan of up to 35 years.




NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2012 [online]

shortbeaked.htm (Accessed 14 march 2016)


Short-Beaked Common Dolphin Range

Click for larger view

Credit: NOAA

bottom of page