Delphinus delphis/capensis

Common Name: Common Dolphin

Common Dolphin
delphinus Common dolphin
delphinus Common dolphin size.svg

Size comparison against an average human

Conservation Status
delphinus Status iucn3.1 LC.svg

Least Concern (IUCN 2.3)

Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Subclass Eutheria
Order Cetacea
Suborder Odontoceti
Family Delphinidae
Genus Delphinus
Species D. delphis
Binomial Name
Source: Wikipedia

General Description: The Common Dolphin (also called the Saddleback Dolphin, Whitebelly Porpoise or Crisscross Dolphin) has a slender body, and a long beak separated by a crease from the melon. The prominent dorsal fin may be triangular or falcate, and the flippers taper to a pointed tip.

The colour pattern of the Common Dolphin is striking. It is black or dark brown above, including the dorsal fin, tail flukes, beak and flippers. There are large yellow patches on the sides. The tail stock and rear flanks are grey. There is a black stripe from the black patch surrounding the eye to the front of the melon and another from the chin to the flippers.

Common Dolphins often have squid sucker marks on the chin and lower jaw.

delphinewCommon dolphins offshore from Karwar, Karnataka @ Abhishek Jamalabad

Size: Adults, Male Common Dolphins grow to 2.6m in length, and females to 2.3m. The weight is usually not more than 75kg. Calves at birth, 90cm long.

Appearance At Sea: Common Dolphins are playful animals, rolling and leaping in the water. They are found in groups of sizes ranging from three to 200, or in herds of many hundreds.

The group is segregated by age and sex. The lead is usually taken by adult males.

Common Dolphins’ speeds may exceed 40 kilometres per hour. They are avid vessel bow-riders. They enjoy it so much that they may do it for hours. These dolphins will even ride the bow wave of large whales such as the Fin Whale Balaenoptera physalus and the Blue Whale Balaenoptera musculus. They sometimes get trapped with tuna in nets, but many have learned to dive to safety before the net closes.

delphinus dolphin1

This species may dive to about 300 metres depth for food, staying submerged for as long as eight minutes. Sometimes Common Dolphins shoot out of the water to catch flying fish in mid-air.

Found In: This species is found mostly in offshore regions, but may also be observed in coastal waters. It feeds on fish, squid and bottom-living crabs.

Records from India: This is one of the species most frequently caught by accident by fisheries in India. The numerous records of this species are of specimens entangled in gill nets, and some sightings.

[?] Skull in Calcutta Museum, described as “Delphinus frithii” by Blyth; gifted by R.W.G. Frith. De Silva, 1987
1866 [?] “Delphinus pomeegra” described by Owen from Walter Elliot’s collections from near Visakhapatnam;
Skull in the British Museum (Natural History).
Jerdon, 1867
[?] Record from the Madras coast by Blanford. De Silva, 1987
1902–1905 One [?] taken from Travancore. Pillay, 1926
December 1935 [?] One among a group of porpoises driven into a lagoon and slaughtered in the Laccadive Islands. Burton, 1940
[?] Often found scattering shoals of oil-sardine throughout the year off Calicut. Balan, 1961
1976–1980 Fourteen caught in gillnets off Calicut. Lal Mohan, 1985
30 March 1979 One 2.02 m specimen caught off Port Blair. Sivaprakasam, 1980
1981–1982 Stray numbers landed at Fisheries Harbour, Cochin at certain months; along with Bottlenose Dolphins,
made up 1% of the total gillnet landings.
Silas et al., 1984
1982–1984 Some observations in the Gulf of Mannar. Alling, 1986
1982–1987 ~145 dolphins landed at Sakthikulangara, near Quilon, where they were sold for human consumption
or as bait in the hook and line fishery for sharks.
Mahadevan Pillai & Chandrangathan, 1990
20 February 1982 Young male specimen washed ashore at Mandapam. Krishna Pillai & Kasinathan, 1987
8 December 1982 Young specimen caught in gillnet between Thonithurai and Krusadai Island near Mandapam. Krishna Pillai & Kasinathan, 1987
1983 [?] Six males and four females caught off Calangute, Goa. De Silva, 1987
July 1983–December 1986 11,415 kg of this species landed at Fisheries Harbour, Cochin, [including?]; 42 brought in by a
purse-seine on 24 September 1984
Jayaprakash et al., 1995
5 September 1987 Sighting of a school of about 12 dolphins of this species near Paradeep, along the Orissa coast. Jayaprakash et al., 1995
5 February 1989 Eight of this species sighted at 16°4’N, 81°31’E, north of Kakinada. Jayaprakash et al., 1995
18 February 1991 Some sighted at 7° 47’N, 77°12’E from the vessel FORV Sagar Sampada. Jayaprakash, et al., 1995
1993 [?] Two females entangled in gillnets at the Calicut coast. Lal Mohan, 1995
10 April 1992 One male with tail severed washed ashore at Mandapam. Krishna Pillai & Lipton, 1996
6 July 1996 Three entangled in gillnets at Calicut. Lal Mohan, 1996b
10 April 1992 One male with tail severed washed ashore at Mandapam. Krishna Pillai & Lipton, 1996
[?] Half a dozen in shallow water, Point Calimere. Krishnan, 1997
20 March 1997 One male Common Dolphin measuring 3.05 m entangled in gillnet near Murud Janjira. Jadhav & Rao, 1998
14 October 1997 Nine Common Dolphins entangled in shore seine operated between Balaramapuram
and Srikuurman Matchilesam landing centres of Srikakulam district, Andhra Pradesh.
Chandrakumar, 1998
[?] Two female Common Dolphins measuring 2.16 and 2.09 m entangled in gillnet and landed
at Dummulapeta, East Godavari district, Andhra Pradesh.
Anonymous, 1999
30 June 1999 Forty-two specimens including young ones, identified as this species, washed ashore
at Vellapatti village in Tuticorin district.
Anonymous, 1998

World Distribution: The Common Dolphin is very widely distributed, in all the oceans to the limits of tropical and warm temperate waters.

Could Be Confused With: At close quarters, the yellow patch on the side of the Common Dolphin is clearly visible and even at a distance it stands out as a part of the crisscross pattern. There is a possibility of confusion with the Spinner Dolphin, with which the Common Dolphin sometimes schools. The two species can be distinguished as follows:

Rough-toothed Dolphin Long conical beak, continuous with forehead Few large and irregular markings
Spotted Dolphin Long beak, sharply set of from head by transverse line Many small regular spots
Bottlenose Dolphin Stubby beak, sharply set of from head by transverse line No spots

Diagnostic Features: At sea, hourglass pattern of yellow, dark lines from flippers to the bottom of the lower jaw, prominent dorsal fin, long beak.

Stranded Specimens: There may be 40 to 58 pairs of small, pointed teeth in each jaw.There are deep grooves running just inside the tooth rows.

Note: Common Dolphins recorded from India recently have been identified as Delphinus capensis. This raises the possibility that previous records of Delphinus delphis are misidentifications.