Indo-Pacific finless porpoise

Neophocaena phocaenoides
Other names: 
  • Black finless porpoise
  • Black porpoise
  • Finless porpoise
Maximum length: 
  • Male: 2m
  • Female: 2m
  • Calf: 0.75m
Maximum weight: 
  • Male: 55kg
  • Female: 55kg
  • Calf: Unknown
  • Fish
  • Squid
  • Crustaceans
Estimated population: 
IUCN Listing: 
CITES Appendix: 
CMS Appendix: 

Historically, the genus Neophocaena contained only one recognised species, the finless porpoise N. phocaenoides. It has very recently been split into two species: the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise N. phocaenoides and the narrow-ridged finless porpoise N. asiaeorientalis, formerly recognized as the subspecies N. phocaenoides asiaeorientalis. There is evidence to suggest subpopulation structure in the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise and this may apply through much of the species' wide distribution.


The two species of finless porpoise are the only members of the porpoise family without a dorsal fin and are easily recognisable at sea. The low profile makes it nearly invisible if the seas are rough. In place of a dorsal fin, both species of finless porpoise have a dorsal ridge along the back that runs from above the flippers to the beginning of the tail stock. This ridge is covered in circular wart-like tubercles or bumps, and in the Indo-Pacific finless porpoise the tubercules cover a wide area. Both species of finless porpoise are one of the smallest cetaceans and the only member of the porpoise family to have a bulbous melon - there is no prominent beak. The mouth is small and curves slightly upwards and there is a slight depression behind the blowhole. Both species of finless porpoise have a small, streamlined body which is pale grey-blue in colour with a lighter belly and white chin. Adults usually grow to between 1.2 and 2metres in length.


Both species of finless porpoises are active animals, usually swimming in small groups or alone. They swim just below the surface of the water with sudden, darting movements. Little disturbance is caused when they break the surface and they tend to roll onto their sides when doing so. They have been known to spyhop, but are rarely seen breaching. They are generally shy and avoid boats. Calves have been sighted riding on the mother's back, gripping the dorsal ridge, and coming out of the water when the mother breathes.


The Indo-Pacific finless porpoise is a tropical species occurring in coastal waters (rarely seen more than 5 km from the coast) from the southern East China Sea to the Indo-Malay region (but not the Philippines) and west discontinuously through the Indian Ocean to the Persian Gulf. The major threat to finless porpoises is entanglement in fishing nets, especially gillnets. Other threats include hunting, live capture for display, human disturbance, habitat degradation, boat strikes and chemical and noise pollution. The population of Indo-Pacific finless porpoises is unknown and the species is listed as Vulnerable by IUCN (2008).

Distribution map: