Temporal range: Late Oligocene–Recent
Pacific White-sided Dolphins
Pacific White-sided Dolphins
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetartiodactyla
Suborder: Odontoceti
Family: Delphinidae


Oceanic Dolphins are members of the cetacean family Delphinidae. These marine mammals are related to whales and porpoises. They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves. As the name implies, these dolphins tend to be found in the open seas, unlike the river dolphins, although a few species such as the Irrawaddy dolphin are coastal or riverine.

Six of the larger species in the Delphinidae, the killer whale, pilot (long-finned and short-finned), melon-headed, pygmy killer and false killer whales, are commonly called whales, rather than dolphins; they are also sometimes collectively known as "blackfish".



The Delphinidae are the most diverse of the cetacean families, with numerous variations between species. They range in size from 1.2 m (3.9 ft) and 40 kg (88 lb) (Haviside's dolphin), to 9 m (30 ft) and 10 tonnes (killer whale). Most species weigh between 50 and 200 kg (110 and 440 lb). They typically have curved dorsal fins, clear 'beaks' at the front of their heads, and forehead melons, although exceptions to all of these rules are found. They have a wide range of colors and patterns.[2]

Most delphinids primarily eat fish, along with a smaller number of squid and small crustaceans, but some species specialise in eating squid, or, in the case of the killer whale, also eat marine mammals and birds. All, however, are purely carnivorous. They typically have between 100 and 200 teeth, although a few species have considerably fewer.

Delphinids travel in large pods, which may number a thousand individuals in some species. Each pod forages over a range of a few dozen to a few hundred square miles. Some pods have a loose social structure, with individuals frequently joining or leaving, but others seem to be more permanent, perhaps dominated by a male and a harem of females.[2] Individuals communicate by sound, producing low-frequency whistles, and also produce high-frequency broadband clicks of 80-220 kHz, which are primarily used for echolocation. Gestation lasts from 10 to 12 months, and results in the birth of a single calf.




Recent molecular analyses indicate that several delphinid genera (especially Stenella and Lagenorhynchus) are not monophyletic as currently recognized.[4] Thus, significant taxonomic revisions within the family are likely.[5]


  1. ^ Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named msw3
  2. ^ a b Evans, Peter G.H. (1984). Macdonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 180–185. ISBN 0-87196-871-1. 
  3. ^ Bianucci, G., Vaiani, S. C. & Casati, S. (2009): A new delphinid record (Odontoceti, Cetacea) from the Early Pliocene of Tuscany (Central Italy): systematics and biostratigraphic considerations. N. Jb. Geol. Paläont. Abh., 254: 275–292.
  4. ^ LeDuc, R.G.; Perrin, W.F.; Dizon, A.E. (July 1999). "Phylogenetic relationships among the delphinid cetaceans based on full cytochrome b sequences". Marine Mammal Science. 15: 619–648. ISSN 0824-0469. doi:10.1111/j.1748-7692.1999.tb00833.x. 
  5. ^ Hassanin, A.; et al. (2012). "Pattern and timing of diversification of Cetartiodactyla (Mammalia, Laurasiatheria), as revealed by a comprehensive analysis of mitochondrial genomes". Comptes Rendus Biologies. 335 (1): 32–50. doi:10.1016/j.crvi.2011.11.002. 
Pseudocheirus peregrinus 2 Gould This article is part of Project Mammalia, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each mammal, including made-up species.
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