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Long-beaked common dolphin

common dolphins
Image: Jamie Edwards

Author: Monica Lozano Subiranas

Length: 2.5 m

Weight: 235 kg

Calf length: 1 m

Calf weight: 17 kg


Schooling fish.


Hourglass shape on sides (golden-yellow patch on the thorax and light grey patch on the flanks), schools / pods of thousands.

Common dolphins
Image: Jamie Edwards


Highly gregarious, often seen porpoising, breaching, bow-riding and very acrobatic. Highly vocal and one can hear them when they are above the surface of the water. Pods of 100 - 500 animals are usual but have been seen in larger herds of thousands of individuals. These large schools are thought to consist of smaller sub-groups of 10 - 20 animals that are possibly related or separated by age and / or sex.

Life history:

sexually mature at around 2 m in length. breeding usually takes place between the spring and autumn followed by a 10 - 11 month gestation period. Females give birth to a single calf that is about 1 m long and weighs about 10 kg, and they have a calving interval of 1 - 3 years. Lifespan 40 years.

Common dolphin
Image: Jamie Edwards


These dolphins are slender, with a long distinct beak and a high dorsal fin. Long-beaked common dolphins have a rounded melon, moderately long beak (can be up to 10% of the total body size), and a sleek but robust body with a tall, pointy, "falcate" dorsal fin located in the middle of the back. This species can be identified by its distinct bright contrasting coloration patterns. The coloration and patterns of young and juvenile dolphins are muted and darker.

Morphologies can be distinct and vary by geographic and regional areas. They have possibly the highest tooth-count of all delphinids. They are capable of speeds of 20 - 35 km / hour and can dive to at least 280 m and can hold their breath for up to 8 minutes to feed on prey.

Feeding associations between long-beaked common dolphins and a variety of other vertebrate predators including seabirds, sharks, fur seals and Bryde's whales are a frequent phenomenon along South Africa's shores, particularly during the annual sardine run.

common dolphins
Image: Jamie Edwards

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