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Dusky Dolphin

May swim in pods of 1000

Order: Cetacea

Suborder: Odontoceti

Superfamily: Delphinoidea

Family: Delphinidae

Subfamily: Delphininae

Genus & Species: Lagenorhynchus obscurus


The dusky dolphin is a small dolphin with a compact body. The beak is short and rounded and is not well-defined. The dorsal fin is slightly hooked and more vertical than in other species. The flukes are small. The body is dark grey on the back and white on the belly. A large grey patch runs from the base of the beak or the eye to the anal region. A grey "flame" is located on each flank pointing tailward. The tail flukes, pectoral fins and beak are dark grey. A small dark patch encircles each eye. Dusky dolphins grow to lengths of 4 ft 6 in - 5 ft 9 in. The longest one ever recorded was 6 ft 6 in. They weigh 250-285 lbs, although the heaviest one recorded weighed 305 lbs. 48-72 teeth are found on each jaw.

Dusky dolphins are extremely intelligent and are considered to be one of the most acrobatic of the dolphins, sometimes doing backflips in the air after meals.


Dusky dolphins are found in the Southern Hemisphere, especially around New Zealand, South America (especially Argentina and Peru) and Africa. They prefer inshore coastal waters and make great tourist attractions in many places.


Dusky dolphins feed on fish, primarily anchovies and lantern fish, and squid. While feeding they slam their bodies against the water to make a loud noise that somehow herds the fish and notifies other dolphins of food.


Sexual maturity is reached in the females when they reach lengths of 5 ft 4 in. The gestation period is 9-11 months with one calf being born from June to August. The calves weigh 11 lbs at birth with an average length of 2 ft. Females give birth every 2-3 years.


Sharks and killer whales are the main predators of the dusky dolphin. Peru fishermen capture 700 dusky dolphins each year to be sold as food. In New Zealand some are accidentally ensnared in fishing nets.


Dusky dolphins are fast swimmers, easily following ships going 16 knots. They surface every 4- 5 minutes to breathe and dive to depths of 500 ft. They swim in pods of 6-15, although groups of anywhere from 20-1000 have been seen. They sometimes swim with common dolphins and southern right whales and will associate with petrels, jaegers, and terns.


The dusky dolphin is in the same genus as the white-beaked dolphin, Atlantic white-sided dolphin, Pacific white-sided dolphin, hourglass dolphin and Peale's dolphin.