A pod of dolphins swimming
Different Dolphin Species

How Many Species Of Dolphins Are There? (7 Most Common)

There are 42 species of dolphin. They all have different features that make them different from each other. Some species live in saltwater, and some live in freshwater. 

Here is a list of the seven most common dolphin species and their distinguishing characteristics.

1. Common Bottlenose Dolphin

The common bottlenose dolphin is one of the most common dolphin species globally. This particular dolphin species can be found in almost all global oceans except the extreme northern and southern latitudes. 

The common bottlenose dolphins generally prefer to live in warm seas. These animals feed on shrimps and several different fish species. However, the diet of the common bottlenose dolphins usually depends on the area and environment they live.

Even though the common bottlenose dolphin can be found in masses in almost every ocean worldwide, it is also the most commonly kept dolphin in captivity. 

The common bottlenose dolphins living in the wild are considered the species of most minor concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Predators: Killer Whales, Large sharks, Humans

How many common bottlenose dolphins are there?

About 600,000 common bottlenose dolphins are living in the oceans and captivity worldwide. These dolphins are not classed as endangered or threatened in any way. They are, in fact, the most common dolphin species out of the 36 different species.

How long do common bottlenose dolphins live?

Common bottlenose dolphins can live between 30 and 50 years of age; some females even make it to approximately 60. These dolphins live longer in captivity; however, they may not be as happy. 

2. Hourglass Dolphin

Even though you can find many dolphin species living across almost every ocean globally, the hourglass dolphin is the only one that can live in the Arctic and Antarctic oceans.

The hourglass dolphins are the easiest to identify among all the dolphin species, thanks to their distinctive hourglass-like black and white body pattern.

Like the common bottlenose dolphins, the hourglass dolphins are not listed on the endangered or threatened list.

Predators: Killer Whales

How many Hourglass dolphins are there?

About 144,300 Hourglass dolphins are living in the oceans in the antarctic. They are not considered endangered or threatened. The good thing about their location is it’s rarely disturbed by humans, thus reducing the risk to their lives. 

How long do Hourglass dolphins live?

Hourglass dolphins can live between 25 and 45 years of age.

3. Dusky Dolphins

Well known for their exciting aerial behaviour, the dusky dolphins are mid-sized marine animals generally found in coastal regions around Southern Africa, South America, New Zealand, and Australia. 

These dolphins’ body colour is significantly similar to the Pacific right-sided dolphins. However, the dusky dolphins come with more significant concentrations of grey on their white patches. These dolphins also have a narrow rostrum compared to the other dolphins of the same range.

Among all the dolphin species, the dusky dolphins are the most popular among the sailors as these marine animals move in groups and showcase impressive aerial tactics. As these dolphins are well known for their mingling social behaviour, you can often find a cheeky dusky dolphin in a pod of Risso’s dolphins.

Dusky dolphins love to have fun, and anglers often see them blow-riding using the waves that their boats have made. 

Predators: Killer Whales, Large sharks

How many dusky dolphins are there?

Roughly 15,000 dusky dolphins have accounted for so far; however, these are classed as data deficient by the IUCN, and there could be many more dusky dolphins than 15,000.

How long do dusky dolphins live?

On average dusky dolphins live between 25 and 30 years of age, with some making it past the 30-year mark often.

4. Orca (Killer Whale)

Most of us do not know that orcas are dolphins as well. The truth is that killer whales or orcas are dolphin species, even though it is much larger than any average dolphin. 

If you think critically, almost all dolphins are a kind of whale. So, the orca is well within its rights to belong to the oceanic dolphin family.

The orca is the largest dolphin, growing about 26 feet in length and weighing around 7000 pounds.

They do vary in size depending on their types. There are four different types of orcas that you can find in parts of the oceans across the world.

You can find killer whales in almost every ocean, including the polar regions.

Predators: None

How many orcas are there?

Roughly 50,000 orcas exist globally. However, each year they are declining due to a lack of food, noise pollution, and chemical pollution, mainly caused by humans. Orcas were placed on the endangered list in 2005 and will be for many years.

How long do orcas live?

On average, orcas live in captivity between 10 and 45 years of age. However, orcas live longer in the wild, between 50 and 90 years. Unlike other dolphin species, they often live longer in captivity, but the orcas don’t. Early death might be because of their sheer size and not enough space. Orcas are very sociable animals, and living alone in confinement makes them unhappy and stressed, thus leading to shorter lifespans. 

5. Hector’s Dolphin

Hector’s dolphins are the rarest and smallest of the species of oceanic dolphins. These dolphins are mainly found in the coastal areas around New Zealand. 

There are two distinguished subspecies of hector’s dolphin that you can spot in this region. One is known as the South Island hector’s dolphin, and the other is Maui Dolphin. 

You can find these types of dolphins along the Western Coast of the North Island. These dolphins grow only up to 5 feet in length and weigh about 50 kg. 

The hectors dolphins have a distinctive dorsal fin as it resembles Micky mouses ear and is much darker in colour than the rest of their body. The body is mainly light grey with added white and black markings. 

Hector’s dolphins usually live in a tiny groups close to the coastlines. 

Accidental catches in fishing nets are the primary threat these dolphins suffer from. Other than that, these dolphins are very susceptible to infectious diseases. 

Predators: Killer Whales, Larger Sharks

How many hectors dolphins are there?

The IUCN has currently tagged this species as endangered. Right now, only about 7,300 hector’s dolphins live in the wild, and sadly, the number is steadily declining, mainly due to accidental human error. Much more needs to be done to save these beautiful dolphins.

How long do hectors dolphins live?

On average, hectors dolphins live between 20 and 25 years of age. However, many dont live to see this age due to the threat of human error. These dolphins live by the coastlines and often get caught in gillnets and suffocate due to being unable to return to the surface within the time they need to take a breath. 

How long can a dolphin hold its breath? 

The average dolphin can hold its breath underwater for eight to ten minutes before needing to take in more oxygen.

6. Atlantic Spotted Dolphin

It is one of the dolphin species that you can identify pretty quickly. The Atlantic spotted dolphins are relatively large, and these animals generally live in the temperate and tropical Atlantic Ocean. 

You can generally spot these dolphins near the Gulf of Mexico and the Bahamas. However, sometimes you can spot these dolphins as far away as Cape Cod.

Atlantic spotted dolphins have beautiful, distinctive spotted colouration all over their bodies. Interestingly, these dolphins are not born with distinguishing spots, much like a dalmatian dog.

A newborn Atlantic spotted dolphin is a light grey colour at first, then after roughly three years, speckles start to form, and then over the years, they become more distinguished. In most cases, the total transformation happens when the dolphin is about nine years of age.

Predators: Killer Whales, Larger Sharks

How many Atlantic spotted dolphins are there?

There are around 100,000 Atlantic spotted dolphins. They are not on the endangered list, and their population continues to thrive yearly. 

How long do Atlantic spotted dolphins live?

On average Atlantic spotted dolphins live between 30 and 50 years of age.

Recommended Read: How Do Dolphins Sleep?

7. Commerson’s Dolphin

Also known as the Panda dolphin, the Commerson’s dolphins are small dolphins that live exclusively in and around the Kerguelen Islands and the Southern portion of South America. 

The distinctive black and white colour contrast makes the dolphins very easily identifiable.

Commerson’s dolphins are very stocky and grow to around 1.5 metres in length.

Baby Commerson’s dolphins are born will a little hair on their rostrum before falling out not long after being born.

Predators: Killer Whales, Larger Sharks, Leopard Seals

How long do Commerson’s dolphins live?

On average, Commerson’s dolphins live in captivity between fifteen to eighteen years of age. They may only survive till about ten years of age in the wild.

Conservation Status

Commerson’s dolphins are currently not on any threatened or endangered list. Unfortunately, the data is deficient. However, there is no concern at present, so one can presume plenty of these lovely dolphins live happily in the oceans.

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Teresa Milne

Teresa is learning zoology and loves to share her knowledge through her articles. She is also a avid binge watcher of wild animal documentary's. Teresa has some pets that she adores two dogs, two cats, and one hamster. She has also studied canine behaviour and canine nutrition.