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Northern right whale dolphin

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Title: Northern right whale dolphin  
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Subject: Right whale dolphin, Oceanic dolphin, Cetacean bycatch, Toothed whale, Cetacea
Collection: Oceanic Dolphins
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Northern right whale dolphin

Northern right whale dolphin
Size compared to an average human
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
Family: Delphinidae
Genus: Lissodelphis
Species: L. borealis
Peale, 1848[2]
Binomial name
Lissodelphis borealis
Range map

The northern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) is a small and slender species of marine mammal found in the North Pacific Ocean. It travels in groups of up to 2000, often with other cetaceans, in deep waters of the North Pacific. The dolphin is one of two species of right whale dolphin, the other being found in cooler oceans of the southern hemisphere.


  • Classification 1
  • Characteristics 2
  • Behaviour 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The species was first described by Titian Peale in 1848. The genus Lissodelphis is placed within Delphinidae, the oceanic dolphin family of cetaceans.[2] The epithet of the genus was derived from Greek lisso, smooth, and delphis;[3] the specific epithet, borealis, indicates the northern distribution. The common names for the species formerly included northern right whale porpoise, snake porpoise, and Pacific right whale porpoise.[4][5] Both species in the genus are also referred to by the name right whale dolphin, a name derived from the right whales Eubalaena, which also lack a dorsal fin.[3][6]


This dolphin has a streamlined body with a sloping forehead, being more slender than other delphinid, and lacks any fin or ridge on the smoothly curving back.[7][8] The beak is short and well defined, a straight mouthline, and an irregular white patch on chin. The flippers are small, curved, narrow and pointed, the body is mostly black while the underside is partly white or lighter in colour. The tail flukes are triangular and, like the flippers, pointed. Adults weigh between 60–100 kg (130–220 lb).[7] They have 74 to 108 thin and sharp teeth, not externally visible.[8] As young calves, these dolphins are greyish brown or sometimes cream. They stay like this for a year, before their body turns mainly black, with a clear white belly, and a white streak to their lower jaw.

Adults range in size from 2 metres (6 ft 7 in) in length, females are recorded as 2.3–2.6 m (7 ft 7 in–8 ft 6 in), males at 3.1 m (10 ft), the sexes are otherwise similar in colour and appearance.[8][4] Newborns are around 90 centimetres (35 in). Northern Right Whale Dolphins have less white on their bodies than the Southern species.

Northern right whale dolphin are found as individuals, or in groups as large as 2000.[7] The group's average number is 110 in the eastern North Pacific and 200 individuals in the western North Pacific. They often associate with Pacific white-sided dolphins.[8]

They can reach speeds of up to 30–40 kilometres per hour (19–25 mph) across the open ocean, and sometimes along shallow coasts. They can dive up to 200 metres (660 ft) in search of fish, especially lanternfish, and squid.[8] They are found in temperate to cold waters, 24 to 8 °C (75 to 46 °F), from latitudes 51°N to 31°N between the west coast of North America and Asia.

Yankee whalers occasionally took this species for food in the mid-19th century.[9] Records from the late twentieth century show large numbers of L. borealis were caught in drift nets, used for large scale squid fishing, which is estimated to have reduced the population by one to three quarters.[8] Although the current population trend is unknown, IUCN Redlist gives the conservation status as Least Concern.[1]


This species usually travel in groups of 5–200 animals. When travelling fast the group will look like they're bouncing along on the water, as they make low leaps together, sometimes travelling as far as 7 metres in one leap. They often approach boats and partake in bow-riding behavior. These graceful swimmers may bow-ride sometimes, and are spotted occasionally doing acrobatics, such as breaching, belly-flopping, side slapping, and lobtailing.

See also


  1. ^ a b Hammond, P.S., Bearzi, G., Bjørge, A., Forney, K., Karczmarski, L., Kasuya, T., Perrin, W.F., Scott, M.D., Wang, J.Y., Wells, R.S. & Wilson, B. (2008). Lissodelphis borealis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 24 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
  2. ^ a b (Peale, 1848)"Lissodelphis borealis".  
  3. ^ a b Fertl, Dagmar. "Southern Right Whale Dolphin". Whales & Whale Spotting. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  4. ^ a b "Lissodelphis borealis (Peale, 1848)".  
  5. ^ "Lissodelphis borealis (Peale, 1848)". Encyclopedia of life. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  6. ^ "Lissodelphis peronii". Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  7. ^ a b c Jefferson, Thomas A.; Newcomer, M. (23 April 1993). "Lissodelphis borealis" (PDF). Mammalian Species (The American Society of Mammalogists) 425: 1–6.  
  8. ^ a b c d e f Right Whale Dolphin"Lissodelphis borealis". MarineBio. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  9. ^ Erie, of Fairhaven, 1852 (Nicholson Whaling Collection).

External links

  • Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
  • Voices in the Sea - Northern right Whale Dolphin
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