Short-beaked Common Dolphin
Delphinus delphis

Physical Description

  • Small marine mammals, weighing an average of 170 pounds with length just under 6 feet
  • Rounded forehead and 40-57 pairs of small, sharp teeth in beak
  • Body is sleek and aerodynamic with a relatively large, triangular dorsal fin on back
  • Dark gray coloration on back, forming V on sides, with yellowish tan side panels 
  • A narrow dark stripe runs from the lower jaw to the flipper
  • Males slightly larger than females


  • Cosmopolitan distribution
  • Washington down south to coast of Chile in Pacific
  • East Coast of Canada to Florida in Atlantic
  • Found in North Pacific north of Hawaii, New Zealand, Tasmania, Southeast Asia
  • All throughout Europe and North Africa, eastern Africa


  • Prefer warm tropical to cool temperate waters
  • Primarily found in oceanic and offshore waters
  • Often in association with underwater ridges, seamounts, and continental shelves where cold, nutrient-dense bottom water is upwelling


  • Males become sexually mature at 10 and females at 8 years old
  • Off the California coast, calves are born in winter after a 10-11 month gestation period
  • In the eastern tropical Pacific, calves are born year-round
  • Every 2-3 years, an adult female will give birth to a baby that is 2.5 to 3 feet long
  • Calves nurse for about a year, and are dependent on their mothers for another year or more


  • Squid, small schooling fish
  • They often swim with schools of tuna and flocks of seabirds


  • Common dolphins’ natural predators are larger sharks, like bull sharks and great whites
  • Common dolphins are hunted for meat and oil in Russia, Japan, and countries around the Black Sea and Mediterannean Sea

Interesting Facts

  • Common dolphins are called common because they are some of the most abundant marine mammals on earth.
  • They are sometimes found swimming in pods of over 3000 individuals.
  • They are very active at the surface, somersaulting and leaping out of the water.

Sources: Voices in the Sea; NOAA Fisheries;

Photo: Thomas A. Blackman

To hear a common dolphin’s call and see videos of them swimming, visit Voices in the Sea, a collaboration between the Pacific Life Foundation and Scripps Institution of Oceanography. 

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