Dolphins & Porpoises

Dolphins and porpoises are at the top of the food chain and play an important role in the overall balance of the marine environment. They belong to a group of marine mammals called cetaceans. Marine mammals in the cetacean family include whales, dolphins, and porpoises. These animals are often referred to as “sentinels” of ocean health providing insight into marine ecosystem dynamics. Numerous studies have explored the effects of noise and chemical pollution, habitat degradation, and changes in climate on these animals.

Dolphins and porpoises tend to be social and live in groups. They exhibit complex methods of communication and echolocation making squeaks, buzzes, whistles, and clicks that can be heard from miles away. They are also thought to communicate by slapping the water’s surface with their tails or bodies. They range in size from the small, critically endangered vaquita porpoise to the iconic killer whale—the largest member of the Delphinidae, or dolphin family.

All dolphins and porpoises are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and some are also listed under the Endangered Species Act. Together with our partners, we work to study, protect, and conserve these fascinating species and their habitats.


Species News

Dolphin jumping out of water Ganges River Dolphin in Bangladesh. Credit: Elisabeth Mansur/WCS Bangladesh
Dolphin surfaces the water. $7.2 million in restoration projects are proposed for marine mammals, including dolphins. Image: Florida FWC/Rebekah Nelson
Jeff Hogan hold a post showing identifying features of killer whales Jeff Hogan of Killer Whale Tales shares details of Southern Resident and other types of killer whales with students prior to COVID restrictions. Photo courtesy of Killer Whale Tales.

Research

SWFSC Stranding Collections

What we collect and how tissues are used 

Cetacean Life History

Stranding data fill in critical missing parts of the cetacean life history story

SWFSC Stranding Investigations

Investigating why marine mammals strand 

Species Distribution Models

Habitat-based density estimates for cetaceans in the California Current Ecosystem

Insight

Understanding Sound in the Ocean

Levels of underwater noise from human activities—including from ships, sonar, and drilling—have increased dramatically.

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Species

28 species match your filter criteria.