For many years, the short-beaked common dolphin was known as simply the “common dolphin.” Several new species were proposed, but scientists consistently settled on the fact that there was just one species. Recently, however, researchers gathered enough evidence to divide the species into long-beaked and short-beaked species, and the original scientific name (Delphinus delphis) stayed with the short-beaked common dolphin. This dolphin has a beautiful, distinctive color pattern, with multiple color bands along its sides: dark grey to black on top; light on its belly; yellowish brown and light grey patches on the sides; and a black “mask” connecting the eye to the snout. Adults reach lengths of approximately 7.5-8.5 feet (2-2.5 m) and weights over 440 pounds (200 kilos).
Short-beaked common dolphins feed on schooling fishes and squids in the open ocean and may follow some fishes as they migrate along currents or oceanic “fronts.” Like their prey, short-beaked common dolphins form large groups (typically composed of hundreds of individuals) for hunting and socializing, and at times, hundreds of these groups come together to form “super pods” of as many as 10,000 animals. During both normal grouping and super grouping, short-beaked common dolphins are known for being quite playful and put on impressive aerial displays, breaching and tail walking regularly. They are also one of the species known for swimming along with boats and particularly for riding the wave formed at a boat’s bow.
Short-beaked common dolphins are one of the most common dolphins in the global ocean, and conservation scientists consider them a species of least concern. In other words, they currently face zero threat of extinction. However, as more and more fishing nets are dragged across the ocean’s surface, it is important to continue to observe short-beaked common dolphin populations, along with other open ocean species, to be sure that they remain stable.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.