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Dolphin Tales: The dolphin and porpoise

By Staff | Jul 8, 2020

Many people confuse dolphins and porpoises. They both belong to the order Cetacea and suborder Odontoceti but there are some important differences. Porpoises are not commonly found in Florida waters.

There are 6 species of porpoises and 41 species of dolphins. Porpoises are smaller ranging in size from 135 to 170 pounds and 5-5.5 feet in length. The common bottlenose dolphins range in size from 300 to 1,400 pounds and 6-13 feet in length. The porpoise lifespan is about 24 years. The bottlenose dolphin can live up to 40-60 years.

The dolphin body is longer and thinner while the porpoise body is more compact and portly. Dolphins have a round and visible “melon” in the forehead while the porpoise melon is not visible. Dolphins have longer snouts and bigger mouths. Porpoises have spade-shaped teeth while dolphins have conical-shaped teeth. Dolphins have a hooked or curved dorsal fin while the porpoises have triangular dorsal fins. Dolphins tend to be more acrobatic and less sexually aggressive than porpoises. Dolphins are more communicative and playful than porpoises. Both species have proved to be very intelligent.

The dolphins that we typically see in our Southwest Florida waters are the bottlenose dolphins. They are one of the most studied and well-known marine mammals in the wild. They are not endangered or threatened, but they are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Capt. Cathy Eagle has spent over 40 years boating in our local waters. As a professional charter captain she specializes in dolphin and nature tours. Visit CaptainCathy.com or call 239 994-2572.