Fraser's dolphin

Lagenodelphis hosei
Other names: 
  • White-bellied dolphin
  • Bornean dolphin
  • Sarawak dolphin
  • Shortsnout dolphin
Maximum length: 
  • Male: 2.7m
  • Female: 2.6m
  • Calf: 1m
Maximum weight: 
  • Male: 210 kg's
  • Female: Unknown
  • Calf: 20 kg
  • Fish (mid-water)
  • Squid
  • Crustaceans
Estimated population: 
IUCN Listing: 
CITES Appendix: 
CMS Appendix: 
II (Southeast Asian population)

This species of dolphin was first described scientifically by cetologist Francis Charles Fraser in 1956 from a mislabelled skeleton in the British Museum. He noted that the dolphin displayed characteristics of both Delphinus or common dolphins, and Lagenorhynchus or lag dolphins, combined the names of the two genera and came up with Lagenodelphis. After the initial discovery, however, the species was lost to science and only 'rediscovered' in the early 1970s. As a result, very little is known about this species.


The Fraser's dolphin is distinctly coloured compared to similar species. It has a dark band from its face to underneath the tailstock, bordered by a grey or whitish line on top. The back is grey blue or grey brown, while the belly and throat are pink or white. Fraser's dolphins in the eastern Pacific Ocean and adult males elsewhere in the species range, have a thicker and more intense dark band (creating a dark face mask, sometimes called a 'bandit mask') whilst juveniles have more faded indistinct colouring. The Fraser's dolphin is one of the stockiest of small cetaceans, the body becoming less robust behind the dorsal fin, which is small and ranges from hooked to triangular. It has a short beak and small pointed flippers that are dark on both sides, and small flukes. In the wild it may be confused with the striped dolphin however closer observation of the stocky beak of the Fraser's dolphin should help to avoid any misidentification.


While the Fraser's dolphin is shy in some areas, in other regions it is known to be more approachable and will bow ride. They generally travel in groups of 100-500 animals, however as many as 1,000 individuals have been seen together. They have an aggressive swimming style and pods travel with lots of surface splashing, perhaps reflecting their non-hydrodynamic physiques. They are often seen in mixed groups, swimming with other species of tropical toothed whales and dolphins. Studies of stomach contents suggest it is a deep diver, reaching depths of 250-500m.


Fraser's dolphin has a pantropical distribution between 30ºN and 30ºS in all three major oceans. Although predominantly an oceanic species, they are sometimes found close to shore where deep water is close to land. Fraser's dolphins have been the subject of targeted hunts in several places around the world including Japan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and the Caribbean, in addition to experiencing high mortality in fisheries gear, including gillnets, purse seines, driftnets, and anti-shark nets. In 2008 the IUCN Red List categorised this species as of Least Concern.

Distribution map: