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  • Delphinus delphis/capensis

    Common Name: Common Dolphin

    General Description: The Common Dolphin (also called the Saddleback Dolphin, Whitebelly Porpoise or Crisscross Dolphin) has a slender body, and a long beak separated by a crease from the melon. The prominent dorsal fin may be triangular or falcate, and the flippers taper to a pointed tip.

    The colour pattern of the Common Dolphin is striking. It is black or dark brown above, including the dorsal fin, tail flukes, beak and flippers. There are large yellow patches on the sides. The tail stock and rear flanks are grey. There is a black stripe from the black patch surrounding the eye to the front of the melon and another from the chin to the flippers.

    Common Dolphins often have squid sucker marks on the chin and lower jaw.\

    Size: Adults, Male Common Dolphins grow to 2.6m in length, and females to 2.3m. The weight is usually not more than 75kg. Calves at birth, 90cm long.

    Appearance At Sea: Common Dolphins are playful animals, rolling and leaping in the water. They are found in groups of sizes ranging from three to 200, or in herds of many hundreds.

    The group is segregated by age and sex. The lead is usually taken by adult males.

    Common Dolphins’ speeds may exceed 40 kilometres per hour. They are avid vessel bow-riders. They enjoy it so much that they may do it for hours. These dolphins will even ride the bow wave of large whales such as the Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus and the Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus. They sometimes get trapped with tuna in nets, but many have learned to dive to safety before the net closes.

    This species may dive to about 300 metres depth for food, staying submerged for as long as eight minutes. Sometimes Common Dolphins shoot out of the water to catch flying fish in mid-air.

    Found In: This species is found mostly in offshore regions, but may also be observed in coastal waters. It feeds on fish, squid and bottom-living crabs.

    Records from India: This is one of the species most frequently caught by accident by fisheries in India. The numerous records of this species are of specimens entangled in gill nets, and some sightings.

    Date : [?]
    Details : Skull in Calcutta Museum, described as “Delphinus frithii” by Blyth; gifted by R.W.G. Frith.
    References : De Silva, 1987


    Date : 1866 [?]
    Details : “Delphinus pomeegra” described by Owen from Walter Elliot’s collections from near Visakhapatnam; Skull in the British Museum (Natural History).
    References : Jerdon, 1867


    Date : [?]
    Details : Record from the Madras coast by Blanford.
    References : De Silva, 1987


    Date : 1902–1905
    Details : One [?] taken from Travancore.
    References : Pillay, 1926


    Date : December 1935 [?]
    Details : One among a group of porpoises driven into a lagoon and slaughtered in the Laccadive Islands.
    References : Burton, 1940


    Date : [?]
    Details : Often found scattering shoals of oil-sardine throughout the year off Calicut.
    References : Balan, 1961


    Date : 1976–1980
    Details : Fourteen caught in gillnets off Calicut.
    References : Lal Mohan, 1985


    Date : 30 March 1979
    Details : One 2.02 m specimen caught off Port Blair.
    References : Sivaprakasam, 1980


    Date : 1981–1982
    Details : Stray numbers landed at Fisheries Harbour, Cochin at certain months; along with Bottlenose Dolphins, made up 1% of the total gillnet landings.
    References : Silas et al., 1984


    Date : 1982–1984
    Details :Some observations in the Gulf of Mannar.
    References : Alling, 1986


    Date : 1982–1987
    Details : ~145 dolphins landed at Sakthikulangara, near Quilon, where they were sold for human consumption or as bait in the hook and line fishery for sharks.
    References : Mahadevan Pillai & Chandrangathan, 1990


    Date : 20 February 1982
    Details : Young male specimen washed ashore at Mandapam.
    References : Krishna Pillai & Kasinathan, 1987


    Date : 8 December 1982
    Details : Young specimen caught in gillnet between Thonithurai and Krusadai Island near Mandapam.
    References : Krishna Pillai & Kasinathan, 1987

    Date : 1983 [?]
    Details : Six males and four females caught off Calangute, Goa.
    References : De Silva, 1987

    Date : July 1983–December 1986
    Details : 11,415 kg of this species landed at Fisheries Harbour, Cochin, [including?]; 42 brought in by a purse-seine on 24 September 1984
    References : Jayaprakash et al., 1995


    Date : 5 September 1987
    Details : Sighting of a school of about 12 dolphins of this species near Paradeep, along the Orissa coast.
    References : Jayaprakash et al., 1995


    Date : 5 February 1989
    Details : Eight of this species sighted at 16°4’N, 81°31’E, north of Kakinada.
    References : Jayaprakash et al., 1995


    Date : 18 February 1991
    Details : Some sighted at 7° 47’N, 77°12’E from the vessel FORV Sagar Sampada.
    References : Jayaprakash, et al., 1995


    Date : 1993 [?]
    Details : Two females entangled in gillnets at the Calicut coast.
    References : Lal Mohan, 1995


    Date : 10 April 1992
    Details : One male with tail severed washed ashore at Mandapam.
    References : Krishna Pillai & Lipton, 1996


    Date : 6 July 1996
    Details : Three entangled in gillnets at Calicut.
    References : Lal Mohan, 1996

    Date : 10 April 1992
    Details : One male with tail severed washed ashore at Mandapam.
    References : Krishna Pillai & Lipton, 1996


    Date : [?]
    Details : Half a dozen in shallow water, Point Calimere.
    References : Krishnan, 1997


    Date : 20 March 1997
    Details : One male Common Dolphin measuring 3.05 m entangled in gillnet near Murud Janjira.
    References : Jadhav & Rao, 1998


    Date : 14 October 1997
    Details : Nine Common Dolphins entangled in shore seine operated between Balaramapuram
    and Srikuurman Matchilesam landing centres of Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh.
    References : Chandrakumar, 1998


    Date : [?]
    Details : Two female Common Dolphins measuring 2.16 and 2.09 m entangled in gillnet and landed
    at Dummulapeta, East Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh.
    References : Anonymous, 1999


    Date : 30 June 1999
    Details : Forty-two specimens including young ones, identified as this species, washed ashore
    at Vellapatti village in Tuticorin district.
    References : Anonymous, 1998

    World Distribution: The Common Dolphin is very widely distributed, in all the oceans to the limits of tropical and warm temperate waters.

    Could Be Confused With: At close quarters, the yellow patch on the side of the Common Dolphin is clearly visible and even at a distance it stands out as a part of the crisscross pattern. There is a possibility of confusion with the Spinner Dolphin, with which the Common Dolphin sometimes schools. The two species can be distinguished as follows:

    Species : Rough-toothed Dolphin
    Beak : Long conical beak, continuous with forehead
    Markings : Few large and irregular markings


    Species : Spotted Dolphin
    Beak : Long beak, sharply set of from head by transverse line
    Markings : Many small regular spots


    Species : Bottlenose Dolphin
    Beak : Stubby beak, sharply set of from head by transverse line
    Markings : No spots

    Diagnostic Features: At sea, hourglass pattern of yellow, dark lines from flippers to the bottom of the lower jaw, prominent dorsal fin, long beak.

    Stranded Specimens: There may be 40 to 58 pairs of small, pointed teeth in each jaw.There are deep grooves running just inside the tooth rows.

    Note: Common Dolphins recorded from India recently have been identified as Delphinus capensis. This raises the possibility that previous records of Delphinus delphis are misidentifications.

    Common Dolphin

    Size comparison against an average human

    Conservation Status

    Least Concern (IUCN 2.3)

    Scientific Classification

    Kingdom Animalia
    Phylum Chordata
    Class Mammalia
    Subclass Eutheria
    Order Cetacea
    Suborder Odontoceti
    Family Delphinidae
    Genus Delphinus
    Species D. delphis