Dall’s Porpoise

Photo Credit: Whale Watching Adventures, Whale Nerds Unite and Tom O'Brien | Info Credit: afsc.noaa

Photo Credit: Whale Watching Adventures, Whale Nerds Unite and Tom O’Brien | Info Credit: afsc.noaa

Dorsal view of a Dall's porpoise

Dorsal view of a Dall’s porpoise (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Dall’s porpoises are black with a striking white patch on the belly and flank. They have a small triangular dorsal fin and the posterior margin of the tail flukes are fringed with a grayish-white band.

Sometimes it gets confusing when people use the words “dolphin” and “porpoise” because either word can be used to mean the exact same animals. These words often get mixed up by fishermen and scientists (though they may deny it!).

However, each word refers to a specific family and should not be used interchangeably. Dolphins usually have beaks and more noticeable dorsal fins. Porpoises are usually smaller than dolphins and usually don’t have pronounced melons or beaks. If you are lucky enough to look into a dolphin or porpoise mouth, you can tell the difference between the two families as dolphins have rather pointed teeth while porpoise teeth are shaped like spades. Unless you know a lot about dolphins and porpoises it is easy to confuse them.

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
[Suborder]: Odontoceti
Family: Phocoenidae
Genus: Phocoenoides
Species: dalli

Dall's porpoise in Prince William Sound causin...

Dall’s porpoise in Prince William Sound causing a “rooster tail” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interesting Facts:

  • Dall’s porpoises are fast swimmers and avid “bow wave riders.” They often catch free rides on the bow-waves of passing boats.
  • Dall’s porpoises were named after William H. Dall, an American zoologist who was one of the first to identify the species through detailed notes and drawings.
  • Dall’s porpoises, when swimming at high speeds, create fan-shaped splashes of water, called “rooster tails” because the spray resembles a rooster’s tail. Rooster tails are one way that scientists identify Dall’s porpoises