Common Dolphin

The classification of these dolphins has been controversial, and the long-beaked form is now regarded as a separate species, known scientifically as D. capensis. The common dolphin is also called the short-beaked saddleback dolphin. It is especially common in European waters. The species also swims in the coastal areas of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, including along the coasts of the Americas.

Common dolphins are so-called coastal dolphins because they prefer to swim in warmer water near the surface. However, they are still found far out to sea though seldom dive into deep and colder water. They have many small, curved teeth, which are used for snatching small, slippery fish, such as herrings, from the water.

The common dolphin is one of the smallest dolphin species. They have a distinctive hourglass pattern of pale skin that connects the dark upper skin to the pale lower surface.

These mammals are one of the smallest dolphins. They live in small family groups called schools. There are reports that many schools sometimes group together, forming clans of up to 100,000 individuals. Most of the time common dolphins travel at 8 kph (5 mph) but can hit speeds of 46 kph (29 mph).

They face a number of hazards, such as becoming trapped in fishing nets, but more insidious threats to their well-being stem from chemical pollution. This can affect the kidneys and other organs by accumulating there. The problem is particularly severe in the Mediterranean, and common dolphins have already disappeared from the shallow Azov Sea.

Distribution: Occurs in various localities in temperate areas, in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, as well as the Mediterranean sea.

Habitat: Ocean waters. Food: Fish, squid and octopus.

Weight: 70 - 110 kg (155 - 242 lb).

Length: 180 - 240 cm (71 - 95 in).

Maturity: 4 - 5 years; males mature slightly earlier than females.

Gestation Period: About 310 days.

Breeding: 1; weaning may take about a year.

Food: Feeds on a variety of small schooling fish such as sardines, as well as squid.

Lifespan: Up to 20 years; more than 34 in captivity.

Facial features

Its long beak assists the dolphin in catching prey.

Dorsal fin

This is tall and held erect, curving back on its upper surface to a point.


Grey predominates towards the rear, with a pale yellow or buff area further forwards, and white below.


Four colours are apparent over the body, with black being prominent along the back.


Common dolphins can make a repeated clicking sound, to detect information about their environment. The sound waves reverberate back to them, as with sonar. This is known as echolocation.


The female gives birth tail-first, preventing her calf from trying to breath prematurely. The mother then helps the calf to the surface to obtain air.