Long-beaked common dolphin

Delphinus capensis

Previously considered as one species, in 1994 the common dolphin was separated into short and long-beak varieties.

However, advances in science suggest the initial classification was correct and the common dolphin is in fact one species, which shows considerable variation throughout its large range.

Other names: Common dolphin

Oceanic dolphin silhouette
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 2.5m 2.2m 1m
Maximum weight 235kg Unknown 17kg

IUCN conservation status: Data deficient

What do long-beaked common dolphins look like?

Both common dolphin species are slender, with a long distinct beak and a high dorsal fin. The most notable difference, as the name suggests, is the beak, which in the long-beaked common dolphin can be up to 10% of the total body size. The long-beaked common dolphins have distinctive colouring with multiple colour bands along their sides. Predominantly black or dark grey in colour, forward of the dorsal fin their flanks have a flash of yellow whilst behind the dorsal fin it is white. This colouration forms a beautiful hourglass pattern on their sides which can be more muted in the long-beaked form.

What’s life like for a long-beaked common dolphin?

Long-beaked common dolphins are gregarious and are often seen ‘porpoising' at the water surface, breaching and bow-riding for extended periods of time. They are also highly vocal and like the short-beaked common dolphin, can be heard whistling to each other when they are above the surface of the water. They typically travel in large social groups numbering between 10 and 50 animals, and occasionally, hundreds if not thousands. Life however, can be fraught with danger. Long-beaked common dolphins are hunted throughout their range and are also increasingly accidentally entangled in fishing gear.

What do long-beaked common dolphins eat?

A varied diet. They tend to focus mostly on fish found in mid-water, like anchovies, sardines and other schooling fish but also enjoy a tasty squid every now and then. Long-beaked common dolphins are cooperative feeders, working with pod mates to drive prey into an easily accessible ‘bait-ball.’

Where do long-beaked common dolphins live?

Scientists have not yet been able to estimate how many long-beaked common dolphins there are in the oceans but they live in warm temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. They are known to have a 'patchy distribution' but generally occur within 180km of the coast. Unlike the short-beaked common dolphin that tends to prefer oceanic waters, the long-beaked form seems to favour shallower, warmer waters and generally lives closer to shore.

Toothy record breakers

Long-beaked common dolphins have possibly the highest tooth-count of all dolphins with between 47 – 58 sharp, pointed teeth in each row.

Distribution map

Long-beaked dolphin common distribution map

Long-beaked common dolphins need your help

The main threats...

  • Hunting – long-beaked common dolphins are targeted for their meat in several places throughout their range.
  • Deaths in nets – long-beaked common dolphins are taken incidentally by various fishing gears throughout their range.
  • Pollution – pollution is one of the burgeoning threats facing long-beaked common dolphins throughout their range.

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