Common Dolphin – The power swimmer

By 26/11/2019Mammals

In spite of its name, the common dolphin is not common everywhere in the world. In fact, common dolphins do not inhabit polar regions and their populations are declining in the Mediterranean Sea (IUCN Status: Endangered) and the Black Sea (IUCN Status: Vulnerable). They are powerful swimmers and can reach speeds exceeding 25 knots (46 km/h). Common dolphins are usually inquisitive and can approach vessels to ride their wake.



  • Latin name : Delphinus delphis 
  • Suborder : Odontoceti
  • Family: Delphinidae
  • Length : 1.7 to 2.5 m.
  • Weight : 70 to 110 kg
  • Dive time : up to 15 minutes
  • Dive depth: up to 200 m
  • IUCN Status: Least Concern



Worldwide distribution of Common dolphin. Source: Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals IIIrd Ed. Bernd Würsig, I. G. M. Thewissen & KIT M. Kovacs




Color: On their side they present a yellowish patch in the front and a light grey one behind. They are black dorsally and the belly is white, sometimes pinkish in females.

Head: Long beak, very hydrodynamic.

Fins: The dorsal fin is triangular to falciform in the middle of the back.

Teeth: 160 to 240 per jaw.





Squid, small schooling fish (e.g., herring, anchovies, sardines, mackerels). Most of the time common dolphins feed at he surface on fish ball, but they occasionally feed at depth.


Coastal banquet with common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) and yellow-legged gulls (Larus michahellis)



Breeding takes place in Spring. The gestation is approximately 10 to 12 months. At birth, the calf size is around 80-90 cm. Calves suckled esclusively until around six months and will feed an solid food and milk for a few years.



 Common dolphins are gregarious. They live in pods that generally represent family units (6-30 individuals) but aggregate in superpods of more than 500 individuals.



 They use a variety of whistles and groans to communicate to each other. Echolocation clicks are also used to detect the prey. You can listen Azorean common dolphins communicating in this recording collected by Terra Azul Crew.




Top cover illustrations by Uko Gorter. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals IIIrd Ed. Bernd Würsig, I. G. M. Thewissen & KIT M. Kovacs.

About Marylou

Marylou is a Marine Biologist and Master in Oceanography. She is one of our Marine Wildlife Guide and is responsible for Science Education at TERRA AZUL. Originally from France, she studied in Canada and Belgium and loves being out to sea to share her knowledge with you.

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