Short-beaked common dolphin

Delphinus delphis
Short-beaked common dolphin


Size: max 1.7-2.7m

Key features:
- Distinct figure of 8 patterning on their flanks, with yellow at the front, light grey at the back.
- Dark grey V underneath the dorsal fin
- White underside

Common dolphins are, as the name suggests, the most common in the world. They have a beautiful striking pattern of yellow and grey on their flanks creating a distinctive hourglass shape making them easy to spot and identify. Their flanks are dark with a 'V' shape appearing just below the dorsal fin. They are 1.7 – 2.5m long, making them one of the smaller dolphins.


In European waters they usually travel in groups, typically comprising of around 20 individuals, but have been seen in groups of over 500. In other areas worldwide they have been seen in groups of thousands. They are often seen with other dolphins, especially striped dolphins (their closely related cousins). Common dolphins are very energetic and acrobatic, often leaping out of the water, splashing and occasionally even somersaulting. They are attracted to the bows of ships, giving passengers an exhilarating display. When feeding they herd fish into a tight ball so that they can catch their prey more easily.


Common dolphins can be found all over the world in temperate and tropical regions. They are mainly seen offshore, however coastal populations exist around the UK.


There have been regular strandings of common dolphins along the coastlines of Cornwall and Devon, with many of these appearing to be caused by entanglement in fishing gear. As common dolphins feed on fish species which are also targeted by fisheries, they are attracted to areas where fishing is taking place and are accidentally caught. Fishing techniques such as purse seine and trawling are particularly dangerous to dolphins. Other threats to dolphins include pollution, collisions with vessels, decrease in available prey and habitat degradation.

Sightings Map

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