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Dolphin FAQ (2/3)

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Archive-name: animals/dolphin-faq/part02
Posting-Frequency: monthly
Last-modified: 2002/09/24
Maintainer: Jaap van der Toorn <>

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
* This is part 2 of the FAQ for alt.animals dolphins.
* This document is maintained by Jaap van der Toorn
* ( The intention is to post the latest
* version of the FAQ on the newsgroup once a month.
* Please direct any remarks, suggestions, corrections and
* additions to the above e-mail address.
* Last update: September 24, 2002


3.1 - Where can you find out more about books, videos etc.
      about dolphins?

  There is an excellent list of books, videos and CDs on
  dolphins, which is put together by Trisha Lamb-Feuerstein.
  This list is updated on a regular basis. You can find that
  on the Web at the following URL:
  There is a searchable database  at the site of the Dolphin
  Study Group of the National University of Singapore at: They also have a
  picture database at:

3.2 - Are there any fictional books starring dolphins?

  Yes, there are quite a few. You can find them at the Web site
  mentioned above.

3.3 - How can I find dolphin related Web sites?

  Most marine mammal Web sites are listed on the Marine Mammal
  Links page:
  Similar information (grouped by category) can be found at
  Wesley Elsberry's site:
  Another good starting point is the Aquatic Resources
  section at the New England Aquarium site at:

3.4  - Are there dolphin-related mailing lists?

  Yes, there are a few e-mail discussion lists, some dealing
  with marine mammals in general, others with dolphins only.

  The following are discussion lists. You can participate in
  the discussions, if you play by the rules set for the group
  (you will receive instructions once you join).

  MARMAM - scientific marine mammal discussion list
    To join send an e-mail
    Body:   subscribe marmam Yourfirstname Yourlastnamename

  You can also follow the discussion on the eScribe mailing
  list archive at:

  ECS-ALL - scientific cetacean discussion list
    To join send an e-mail
    Body:   join ecs-all firstname (firstname ...) lastname

  There are also e-mail newsletters and mailing lists you
  can join. Subscription information can be found on the
  associated web sites. Some examples:
  Dolphin Society -
  Ocean Futures   -
  Ear on the Sea  -


4.1 - How many species of dolphins are there?

  The taxonomy of whales and dolphins is still subject to
  change. But in the most common view, the family
  of dolphins (Delphinidae) consists of 32 different
  species. Closely related families (the white whales
  (Monodontidae) and river dolphins (Platanistidae) have
  2 resp. 5 species).

4.2a - What is the dolphin species seen in most oceanaria?
4.2b - What species was the dolphin in the Flipper series?

  The bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

4.3 - What is the largest dolphin?

  The killer whale (Orcinus orca). Male killer whales can
  grow up to 9.6 m (31.5 ft).

4.4 - What is the smallest dolphin species?

  There is not really one smallest species. The smallest
  species include:
  True dolphins (Delphinidae):
     Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) - 1.3 to 1.8 m
     Hector's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori) - 1.2 to 1.5 m
     Black dolphin (Cephalorhynchus eutropia) - 1.2 to 1.7 m
     Commerson's dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) -
       1.3 to 1.7 m

  River dolphins (Platanistidae):
     Franciscana (Pontoporia blainvillei) - 1.3 to 1.7 m

  Porpoises (Phocoenidae):
     Vaquita (Phocoena sinus) - 1.2 to 1.5 m
     Finless porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides) - 1.2 to 1.9 m

4.5 - What is the difference between dolphins and porpoises?

  Dolphins and porpoises belong to different whale families.
  The most obvious differences are:
  - dolphins have a falcate (hook-shaped) dorsal fin, whereas
    porpoises have a triangular dorsal fin.
  - dolphins have conical teeth; the teeth of of porpoises are
    spatula shaped.
  - most dolphin species have a distinct beak. Porpoises don't,
    giving their head a more rounded, blunt shape.

4.6 - What is a dolphin fish?

  Dolphins are marine mammals, but there is also a fish species
  that's often called "dolphin" or "dolphin fish". Its scientific
  name is Coryphaena hippurus. To avoid confusion with the mammal
  species its Spanish name "dorado" or its Hawaiian name
  "mahi mahi" is often used.

  Because of the confusion between the mammal and the fish species
  dolphins have in the past erroneously been called porpoises,
  especially in some US regions, where the fish species is common.
  In older books you can encounter the name "bottlenose porpoise"
  for the bottlenose dolphin, for instance. Dolphins and porpoises
  are however members of different whale families (see 4.5).

  You can find more information about the dolphin fish, including
  its common name in other languages, in the FishBase database,
  online at

4.7 - What are cetaceans?

  Cetaceans is a collective term for whales, dolphins and
  porpoises. The name is derived from the scientific (Latin)
  name of these animals: Cetacea.

4.8  - Are whales and dolphins endangered?

  For most species, the answer is probably "No", although it is
  very difficult to get a good estimate of the size of
  populations on these water living creatures. A number of
  species are endangered: the Indus river dolphin, the baiji
  (there are only about 100 left), the vaquita, the northern
  right whale and the blue whale. Another group of species is
  listed as "vulnerable" (which means that they are not in
  immediate danger of extinction, but also far from safe).
  These are: the Ganges river dolphin, the boto, the bowhead,
  the southern right whale, the sei whale, the fin whale and
  the humpback whale.

  M. Klinowksa (1991)
    Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales of the World
    The IUCN Red Data Book
    IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.

4.9 An overview of the species of whales and dolphins
    (the order Cetacea)



      Eubalaena glacialis               northern right whale
      Eubalaena australis               southern right whale
      Balaena mysticetus                bowhead whale
      Caperea marginata                 pygmy right whale

      Balaenoptera musculus             blue whale
      Balaenoptera physalus             fin whale
      Balaenoptera borealis             sei whale
      Balaenoptera edeni                Bryde's whale
      Balaenoptera acutorostrata        minke whale
      Megaptera novaeangliae            humpback whale

      Eschrichtius robustus             gray whale


      Physeter macrocephalus            sperm whale
      Kogia breviceps                   pygmy sperm whale
      Kogia simus                       dwarf sperm whale

      Berardius bairdii                 Baird's beaked whale
      Berardius arnuxii                 Arnoux' beaked whale
      Tasmacetus shepherdi              Shepherd's beaked whale
      Ziphius cavirostris               Cuvier's beaked whale
      Hyperoodon ampullatus             northern bottlenose whale
      Hyperoodon planifrons             southern bottlenose whale
      Mesoplodon pacificus              Longman's beaked whale
      Mesoplodon hectori                Hector's beaked whale
      Mesoplodon mirus                  True's beaked whale
      Mesoplodon europaeus              Gervais' beaked whale
      Mesoplodon ginkgodens             ginkgo-toothed
                                          beaked whale
      Mesoplodon grayi                  Gray's beaked whale
      Mesoplodon carlhubbsi             Hubbs' beaked whale
      Mesoplodon stejnegeri             Stejneger's beaked whale
      Mesoplodon bowdoini               Andrew's beaked whale
      Mesoplodon bidens                 Sowerby's beaked whale
      Mesoplodon layardii               strap-toothed whale
      Mesoplodon densirostris           Blainville's beaked whale
      Mesoplodon peruvianus             Pygmy beaked whale
      Mesoplodon traversii 1)           spade-toothed whale
        = Mesoplodon bahamondi              Bahamonde's beaked whale
      Mesoplodon perrini 2)             Perrin's beaked whale

      Steno bredanensis                 rough-toothed dolphin
      Sousa chinensis                   Indo-Pacific hump-backed dolphin
      Sousa teuszii                     Atlantic hump-backed
      Sotalia fluviatilis               tucuxi
      Tursiops truncatus                bottlenose dolphin
      Stenella longirostris             spinner dolphin
      Stenella clymene                  clymene dolphin
      Stenella frontalis                Atlantic spotted dolphin
      Stenella attenuata                pantropical spotted
      Stenella coeruleoalba             striped dolphin
      Delphinus delphis                 common dolphin
      Lagenodelphis hosei               Fraser's dolphin
      Lagenorhynchus albirostris        white-beaked dolphin
      Lagenorhynchus acutus             Atlantic white-sided
      Lagenorhynchus obliquidens        Pacific white-sided
      Lagenorhynchus obscurus           dusky dolphin
      Lagenorhynchus australis          Peale's dolphin
      Lagenorhynchus cruciger           hourglass dolphin
      Cephalorhynchus commersonii       Commerson's dolphin
      Cephalorhynchus heavisidii        Heaviside's dolphin
      Cephalorhynchus eutropia          black dolphin
      Cephalorhynchus hectori           Hector's dolphin
      Lissodelphis borealis             northern right whale
      Lissodelphis peronii              southern right whale
      Grampus griseus                   Risso's dolphin
      Peponocephala electra             melon-headed whale
      Feresa attenuata                  pygmy killer whale
      Pseudorca crassidens              false killer whale
      Globicephala melaena              long-finned pilot whale
      Globicephala macrorhynchus        short-finned pilot whale
      Orcinus orca                      killer whale
      Orcaella brevirostris             Irrawaddy dolphin

      Delphinapterus leucas             beluga, white whale
      Monodon monoceros                 narwhal

      Platanista gangetica              Ganges river dolphin
      Platanista minor                  Indus river dolphin
      Inia geoffrensis                  boto, Amazon river
      Lipotes vexillifer                baiji, Yangtze river
      Pontoporia blainvillei            franciscana, La Plata

      Phocoena phocoena                 harbor porpoise
      Phocoena sinus                    vaquita
      Phocoena dioptrica                spectacled porpoise
      Phocoena spinnipinnis             Burmeister's porpoise
      Neophocaena phocaenoides          finless porpoise
      Phocoenoides dalli                Dall's porpoise

  main source:
  M. Klinowksa (1991)
    Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales of the World
    The IUCN Red Data Book
    IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, U.K.

  Note: the above list is a commonly used list of cetacean species,
  but some authors recognize more separate families and species
  (for instance 2 species of bottlenose dolphins: Tursiops truncatus
  (bottlenose dolphin) and Tursiops aduncus (Indian Ocean bottlenose
  dolphin) and 2 or 3 species of common dolphins: Delphinus delphis
  (shortbeaked common dolphin), Delphinus capensis (longbeaked
  common dolphin) and Delphinus tropicalis (Arabian common dolphin)).
  See for instance:
  Dale W. Rice (1999)
     Marine Mammals of the World - Systematics and Distribution
     Society for Marine Mammalogy Special Publication 4
     Society for Marine Mammalogy, Lawrence, Kansas.

  1) Mesoplodon traversii appears to be a senior synonym for
     M. bahamondi. See:
     A.L. van Helden, A.N. Baker, M.L. Dalebout, J.C. Reyes,
     K. van Waerebeek and C.S. Baker (2002)
     Resurrection of Mesoplodon traversii (Gray, 1874), senior
     synonym for M. bahamondi Reyes, van Waerebeek, Crdenas
     and Yez, 1995 (Cetacea: Ziphiidae)
     Marine Mammal Science 18(3): 609-621

  2) New species, recently discovered based on DNA analysis. See:
     M.L. Dalebout, J.G. Mead, C.S.Baker, A.N. Baker and
     A.L. van Helden (2002)
     A new species of beaked whale, Mesoplodon perrini sp. n.
     (Cetacea: Ziphiidae) discovered through phylogenetic analyses
     of mitochondrial DNA sequences.
     Marine Mammal Science 18(3): 577-608

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