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14 Types of Dolphins (With Pictures)

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Dolphins are a type of marine mammal and are closely related to whales and porpoises. Dolphins are known for being incredibly intelligent, social and agile. Some dolphins are strictly salt-water dwelling, while some live in rivers, and some can be found in between in brackish water. In this article, we’ll be introducing you to various types of dolphins, and looking at some pictures of them!

14 Types of dolphins

There are many different approximately 40 species of dolphins which can be found all over the world, however most species are associated with warm waters. Here are 14 examples of dolphins found in our oceans.

1. Common bottlenose dolphin

Bottlenose Dolphin breaching
Bottlenose Dolphin breaching | image by caroline legg via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Tursiops truncatus

Bottlenose dolphins are some of the most well-known dolphins as they are commonly found performing in entertainment shows at aquariums or being the center of attention at animal encounters. In the wild, they have a broad distribution and can be found in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters all over the world.

2. Rough-toothed dolphin

Rough-toothed dolphins underwater
Rough-toothed dolphins underwater | image by Laurent Bouveret via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific name: Steno bredanensis

The rough-toothed dolphin looks very similar to the bottlenose dolphins and are often confused for them. They get their name from the rough exterior on their teeth, which they have approximately 80 of. Rough-toothed dolphins are thought to share a similar distribution with the bottlenose dolphin, but overall there is less information on them, making defining their range and population status difficult.

3. Common dolphin

Common dolphin breaching
Common dolphin breaching | image by Joe Decruyenaere via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Delphinus delphis

As the name would suggest, the common dolphin is thought to be the most abundant type of dolphin in the world with an estimated population of approximately six million. They are found in warm and subtropical coastal waters worldwide. Common dolphins travel in groups of hundreds and sometimes thousands of other dolphins.

4. Amazon river dolphin

Amazon river dolphin
Amazon river dolphin | image by Jorge Andrade via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Inia geoffrensis

While most people associate dolphins with the ocean, Amazon river dolphins are the exception to this rule. Not only that, but these marine mammals turn pink as they age! When they are born, they are a light gray color, but as time goes on they turn a light shade of pink.

This color change is actually due to repetitive abrasion on the skin. Amazon river dolphins, unsurprisingly are from the Amazon river basin. Unfortunately, this species is endangered due to habitat loss, hunting, and entanglement in fishing nets.

5. Killer whale

Killer Whales Qrcas

Scientific name: Orcinus orca

While the word “whale” is in their common name, these marine mammals are actually considered a species of dolphin! They are the largest species of dolphin in the world, growing to be between 16 and 26 feet long.

Killer whales are apex predators and have been known to take down great white sharks and some species of whale. They can be found in all of the world’s oceans.

6. Spinner dolphin

image: dronepicr | CC 2.0

Scientific name: Stenella longirostris

Spinner dolphins, as the name would suggest, are known for their acrobatic spins. They launch themselves out of the air before completing up to seven rotations in a single jump!

It is not known exactly why they do this behavior, but it is thought to communicate with other dolphins or even remove parasites that have latched on to them. Spinner dolphins stick to tropical and subtropical waters.

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7. Hourglass dolphin

Hourglass dolphins
Hourglass dolphins | image by Lomvi2 via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Lagenorhynchus cruciger

Hourglass dolphins are unique from other species of dolphins due to the fact that they are found solely in arctic and subarctic waters. They are smaller dolphins, growing to be approximately 6 feet and are mostly black with white patches on their sides. This has earned them the nickname “sea skunks”.

8. Atlantic spotted dolphin

Atlantic spotted dolphin
Atlantic spotted dolphin | image by Alastair Rae via Flickr | CC BY-SA 2.0

Scientific name: Stenella frontallis

The Atlantic spotted dolphin is found in the warmer waters of the Atlantic. They are thought to be very closely related to Bottlenose dolphins and have even been observed to mate with them.

Atlantic spotted dolphins get their name for their small white spots that are almost like white freckles. What’s interesting about their spots is that they change with age, with older individuals having more spots.

9. La Plata dolphin

Scientific name: Pontoporia blainvillei 

The La Plata dolphin is a species of river dolphin however they can split their time between freshwater and saltwater. They are found along the southeastern coast of South America. Physically, they are distinct from other dolphins due to their large beak or snout that protrudes and is up to 15% of their body length.

10. Maui’s dolphin

Maui’s dolphin swimming
Maui’s dolphin swimming | image by vivtony00 via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Cephalorhynchus hectori

Contrary to their name, the Maui’s dolphin is not native to the Hawaiian island, Maui, but is endemic to the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island. They are one of the smallest species of dolphin, growing to be just over five feet.

Sadly, these dolphins are facing extinction as their populations dwindle. It is estimated that there are between 55 and 60 individuals left.

11. Chilean dolphin

Black dolphins breaching
Black dolphins breaching | image by Bobbyandck via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific name: Cephalorhynchus eutropia

The Chilean dolphin, also sometimes known as the Black dolphin, is only found off the coast of Chile. It is often mistaken as a porpoise due to its very short or almost nonexistent beak and round head- both characteristics that porpoises have.

12. False killer whale

False killer whale
False killer whale | image by William Warby via Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Pseudorca crassidens

The false killer whale, like the orca, is not a whale however at first glance they may look like one. They are large dolphins, growing to be 16-20 feet long.

Like some other species of dolphin, they are very social and travel in pods of up to 50 others. Sometimes, they even travel in pods with other species of dolphins. False killer whales are found in warm and temperate coastal waters worldwide.

13. Atlantic white sided dolphin

Alantic white sided dolphin breaching
Alantic white sided dolphin breaching | image by Anna via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Scientific name: Lagenorhynchus acutus

Atlantic white sided dolphins are aptly named for the pale yellow (almost white) marking on their side. On their dorsal side, they are a dark gray while on their bellies moving to a light gray and then white on their bellies. Their range is restricted to the northern Atlantic ocean where they can be found traveling in large pods.

14. Northern right whale dolphin

Northern right whale dolphins breaching
Northern right whale dolphins breaching | image by NOAA NMFS via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scientific name: Lissodelphis borealis

The northern right whale dolphin is unique from other species of dolphins as it lacks any sort of dorsal fin. They have slender, streamlined bodies. This species is found in the Northern Pacific ocean and travels in large pods of over 100 other individuals.

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About Samantha S.

Samantha is a wildlife biologist with a masters degree in environmental biology. Most of her work has been with reptiles, however she has also worked with birds and marine organisms as well. She enjoys hiking, snorkeling, and looking for wildlife.