Dolphins are well known to be some of the friendliest, most fun-loving marine mammals, not to mention their incredibly high level of intelligence, hunting abilities, and unique communication styles.

There are 43 species of dolphin that currently exist on the planet, of which 38 are ocean bound, with the remaining five species making their homes in freshwater rivers.

Dolphins can be found in a large variety of shapes and sizes scattered throughout the world’s waterways. If you are a dolphin fan, then the following dolphin types are sure to get your excitement levels shooting through the roof.

Long-Beaked Common Dolphin (Delphinus capensis)

Abundance: The Long-beaked Common dolphin is the most abundant dolphin species on earth
Population: There are approximately 6 million Common Dolphins in the ocean

Long-beaked common dolphins are the most abundant dolphin species
Long-beaked common dolphins are the most abundant dolphin species

The Long-beaked Common dolphin, as its name suggests, is one of the most abundant cetacean species found in the ocean.

The dolphin is easily distinguished among other species thanks to the unique hourglass shape on its side body, which is formed from the combination of a dark back, a tan panel on its side, and a lighter gray panel extending to its tail.

The Long-beaked Common dolphin is relatively small-sized, growing only 6 – 8.5 feet long.

This abundant dolphin can be found in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, where it favors warmer tropical and subtropical waters. They are often seen in shallow waters close to the shoreline.

Short-Beaked Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis

Speed: The Short-Beaked Common Dolphin is the fastest dolphin species, reaching up to 37 mph
Lifespan: The Short-Beaked Common Dolphin lives between 35 and 40 years

The Short Beaked Common dolphin is the fastest dolphin species
The Short Beaked Common dolphin is the fastest dolphin species

Short-beaked Common dolphins, making up the rest of the Common dolphin population, were once believed to be the same species as the Long-beaked Common dolphin but have since been established as their own.

These dolphins have the same coloring and hourglass pattern as their long-beaked cousins, but their colors are more distinct.

The Short-beaked common dolphin is a small species, measuring less than 6 feet.

Apart from their shorter beaks, distinct coloring, and smaller size, they can be told apart from Long-beaked Common dolphins by their rounder heads and bodies.

Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

A Movie Star: Bottlenose dolphins are often used in aquariums and Hollywood productions thanks to their high intelligence
Intelligence: A bottlenose dolphin’s brain is larger than a humans

Bottlenose dolphins star in many Hollywood films
Bottlenose dolphins star in many Hollywood films

Although it may not be the most abundant dolphin species on earth, the bottlenose dolphin has made a name for itself as the go-to when someone thinks of a dolphin. This is largely because of their abundance in aquariums and their use in movies and television shows.

Bottlenose dolphins are highly intelligent and communicate with each other during hunting, where they hear their prey slowly and then, with fast 30mph bursts, attack in turn.

These dolphins can be found worldwide, making their homes in warmer tropical waters, often in harbors, bays, gulfs, and estuaries.

Bottlenose dolphins are mostly grey but can range on a spectrum to almost black when reaching their dorsal fins and nearly white on their belly. They also have a short thick beak, from where they get their name.

Hector’s Dolphin (Cephalorhynchus hectori)

Population: There are approximately only 7,000 Hector’s dolphins in the ocean
Name Origin: Named after a New Zealand scientist, Sir James Hector

Hector's dolphins are the smallest and rarest dolphin species n the world
Hector’s dolphins are the smallest and rarest dolphin species n the world

Hector’s dolphins are both the smallest and the rarest dolphin species in the world, reaching only 4 – 5 feet as adults. Unlike other dolphins, they lack a beak but instead have a rounded head, giving their body a torpedo shape.

Hector’s dolphins are white on the belly and gray on the upper body, with a gray streak running along the center body to cover the tail and a black band around the eye that extends to the flipper.

Hector’s dolphins are the only dolphin species endemic to the coastal waters of New Zealand and can be found (if you’re lucky) along the western shores of the North Island, but their numbers are dropping, and they are quickly going extinct.

This rare dolphin species has a subspecies known as the Maui’s dolphin, which is critically endangered with a population of less than 60.

Atlantic Humpbacked Dolphin (Sousa teuszii)

Family Size: Atlantic Humpback dolphins live in pods of 10 – 15 individuals
Communication: It is suggested that their hump may play an important role in social recognition among individuals

Atlantic humpback dolphins have a unique hump under their dorsal fin
Atlantic humpback dolphins have a unique hump under their dorsal fin

The Atlantic Humpbacked dolphin is endemic to the Atlantic Ocean, where it can be found only in the tropical and subtropical waters of the West African coast, with its range spreading from Morocco to Angola.

To further limit their habitat, these dolphins can be found only in waters less than 30 meters deep, in coastal regions that are easily affected by tidal patterns.

These dolphins are gray or white and wouldn’t stand out as spectacular among other dolphin species if it were not for their iconic hump under their dorsal fin.

Orca (Orcinus orca)

Size: Although they are known as killer whales, the Orca is the largest species of dolphin
A Unique Species: The Killer Whale is the only living species of the genus Orcinus

Orcas are the largest of the dolphin species
Orcas are the largest of the dolphin species

Anyone who’s anyone that loves the ocean will be familiar with these intelligent, playful, yet savage killers.

The Orca, also known as the Killer Whale, is the largest of the dolphin family, often reaching sizes up to 27 feet (8.2m) with a weight of 3 – 4 tons. Yes, surprisingly, orcas are dolphins and not whales.

Orcas are easy to identify and, thanks to their unique markings, are not easily confused with other dolphin species.

These dolphins have a white underbelly with a shiny black back. A white patch is present above each eye, which gives the impression of large white eyes. They also have a tall, triangular-shaped dorsal fin, which is noticeably larger than other dolphins.

Orcas have a wide range of diets. However, individual families often become specific with what they hunt.

For example, one family may eat fish, while another pod of killer whales may specialize on seals or other dolphin species.

Killer whales can be found in a variety of habitats, including the Arctic, Antarctic, and tropical waters.

Irrawaddy Dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris)

Unique Anatomy: The Irrawaddy’s blow hole opens to the front, unlike other dolphins
Name Origin: The Irrawaddy dolphin gets its name from a subspecies that is found in the Irrawaddy river

Irrawaddy dolphins are found only in South Asia, and are at risk of going extinct
Irrawaddy dolphins are found only in South Asia and are at risk of going extinct

Found in the coastal areas of South and Southeast Asia, the Irrawaddy dolphin is another interesting dolphin species that brings its own unique touch.

This gray-to-blue-gray dolphin has a distinctly rounded head with no beak, which makes it easily identifiable. They have a short blunt dorsal fin with a blow hole to the left of the fin. The blow hole opens forwards, which is different from most other dolphin species.

This dolphin species closely represents a beluga but is closely related to an orca.

The Irrawaddy dolphin is a euryhaline species, meaning it can thrive in water with various salinity levels.

Because of this, it is often spotted in brackish water near coastlines, estuaries, and river mouths.

These dolphins are capable of spending time in freshwater too, which is why they are often referred to as the Irrawaddy River dolphin. However, they are not true river dolphins, as their preferred habitat is slightly salty.

Irrawaddy dolphins can be found along the coasts of South and Southeast Asia, particularly on the shores of Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.


How many dolphin types are there?

There are currently 43 recognized dolphin species, with 5 of them being river dolphins and 38 residing in the ocean. That said, new subspecies are constantly being discovered, which means this may change over time.

Are all dolphin types social animals?

Yes, dolphins are highly social animals and can be found living in families known as pods. A pod can be as small as a few individuals and grow as large as a few hundred, depending on the family as well as the species.

How do different dolphin types communicate?

Dolphins communicate with each other using a variety of vocalizations, including clicks, whistles, and body movements. Many of these sounds cannot be heard by the human ear; however, in water, they can travel for miles.

What types of dolphins are endangered?

There are a variety of endangered dolphin species, some of which include the Hector’s Dolphin, the Vaquita dolphin, and the Ganges River Dolphin.

About Ocean Info

At Ocean Info, we dive deep into ocean-related topics such as sealife, exploration of the sea, rivers, areas of geographical importance, sailing, and more.

We achieve this by having the best team create content - this ranges from marine experts, trained scuba divers, marine-related enthusiasts, and more.

Sea Anemone with Clownfish

Dive into more, the ocean is more than just a surface view

Bottlenose dolphins are known to help stranded humans back to the shore

8 of the Most Intelligent Marine Animals

From dolphins' awe-inspiring communication skills to orcas' social complexity, the ocean is home to some of the most intelligent marine animals.

Share to...