Common dolphinDelphinus delphis

  • Open Ocean
  • Mammal
  • Cetaceans
  • Dolphin


Delphinus delphis is a marine mammal from the family of Delphinidae. Common names include Short-beaked Common Dolphin, Atlantic Dolphin, Pacific Dolphin, Saddle-backed Dolphin, Short-beaked Saddleback Dolphin.

The common dolphin is a moderately slender animal with a beak and a tall slightly hooked triangular shaped dorsal fin. It has a distinctive colour patterns and a distinguishing hour-glass pattern on its sides or flank, with yellow and gold-brown colouring on the forward part of its side and grey colouring at the rear. The two colours meet at a point on the flank, level with the dorsal fin. The belly is white, and its back is black. There is a black eye patch on the head. A black stripe extends from the corner of the mouth to the flipper. The beak is black or can have a pale tip. Each half jaw contains 40 to 61 teeth. A fully-grown adult can be 2 to 2.5 m in length while calves can be 0.8 m long. Delphinus delphis usually swims at a speed of 10 km/hr. It is highly vocal, making ‘clicking’ sounds for echolocation. It also whistles and can produce many other sounds.

Habitat and ecology

This species is widely present in warm, tropical and cold temperate waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It can also be found in nearshore as well as offshore waters. There are subpopulations that can be seen in the Mediterranean and Black seas. They also inhabit parts of the Indian Ocean, around South-Eastern Africa and Southern Australia. Additionally, they can be found in more restricted regions such as the Okhotsk Sea and the Sea of Japan. This species is highly social, living in pods of several hundreds to thousands of individuals at various times of the day and year. There are some permanent pods with less than 30 individuals. These dolphins can be seen breaching and somersaulting out of water. They also swim in the bow waves of ships. Common dolphins usually hunt small group of fishes and squids. They are preyed upon by great white sharks. Females usually mature faster than males. The calf is nursed by the mother for up to one year. Gestation is about 10 to 11 months.

Conservation and management

This species is abundant and listed as ‘Vulnerable’ according to the IUCN Red list. Although population decline has been observed in certain regions, they are generally present in high abundance. Major threats include habitat degradation and incidental by-catch. Delphinus delphis is managed over parts of its range. It is listed in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan list of Species of Conservation Concern; Appendix II of CITES; Appendices I and II of CMS.

Did you know?

Common dolphins live, travel and hunt in large social groups called ‘pods’.

They are one of the fastest swimmers with the ability to reach 48km/h.