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Common Dolphins

A Marine Acrobat that Likes to Catch Major Air!

The name "common dolphin" actually refers to two species of dolphins: the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and the long-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus capensis.) They can be very difficult to tell apart, but the main differences are the size of the beak and the size of the black line that goes from chin to pectoral fin. Typically, off the coast of Dana Point, we find more short-beaked common dolphins. At times, these dolphins are found in tremendously large pod sizes of 5000 or more. On the Sea Explorer, there have been days when you could not see the end of the pod on all sides of the boat. Common dolphins are always a favorite for kids (and adults too!) because of their outrageous behavior. Common dolphins frequently leap 6 or more feet out of the water, splashing down on their sides. They are also seen tail-walking, breaching, tail-slapping, mating, and feeding.

How Big is a Common Dolphin Calf?

Common dolphin calves are a frequent sight on the Sea Explorer. Calves are born at about 2 ½ feet long and are born year round. Since dolphins are mammals, the calves will nurse from their mothers for over 6 months. When they are born, they swim close to their mother?s dorsal fin, drafting on her. In this way, they are able to keep up with her swimming speed. In the event of a threat, they will drop below and swim under her belly.

Modern Threats

Common dolphins are frequently found in association with tuna fish. Because of this, one danger to common dolphins is fishing nets. In the United States, dolphin-safe tuna laws have prevented the death of our local dolphins, however, the same laws do not always exist outside of the US. Only pantropical spotted dolphin and spinner dolphins incur more fishing net related mortality.

Our Cruises

Come aboard the R/V Sea Explorer. Each cruise is staffed by our naturalists who lead discussions and answer questions about our local wildlife. Learn More >
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Common Dolphin Facts

Order: Cetacea
Suborder: Odontoceti
Family: Delphinidae
Species: Delphinus delphis and Delphinus capensis
Status: Common
Weight: Average 170 pounds
Length: Average about 6 feet
Diet: Mainly feed on small schooling fish and squid
Range: All tropical, subtropical and temperate waters of the world

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