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  • Delphinus delphis/capensis

    Common Name: Common Dolphin

    General Description: Common dolphins have 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 is striking. It is black or dark brown above, including the dorsal fin, tail flukes, beak and flippers. There are large yellow flares on the sides that cross a white coloured flare at the belly, ventrally forming an Hour Glass pattern. 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.

    Common Dolphins’ speeds may exceed 40 kilometres per hour. They are avid vessel bow-riders. They sometimes get trapped with tuna in nets and by catch numbers were high in the past.

    This species may dive to about 300 metres depth for food, staying submerged for as long as eight minutes.

    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.

    World Distribution: Common dolphins are widely distributed, in all the oceans to the limits of tropical and warm temperate waters.

    Could Be Confused With:The hour-glass pattern is clearly visible and even at a distance as it stands out as a part of the crisscross pattern. There is a possibility of confusion with spinner dolphins, with which it sometimes schools.

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

    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.

    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