Pacific white-sided dolphin

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Pacific white-sided dolphin[1]
Pacific white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) NOAA.jpg
Pacific white-sided dolphin size.svg
Size compared to an average human
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Subclass: Eutheria
Order: Cetacea
Suborder: Odontoceti
Family: Delphinidae
Genus: Lagenorhynchus
Species: L. obliquidens
Binomial name
Lagenorhynchus obliquidens
(Gill, 1865)
Cetacea range map Pacific White-sided Dolphin.PNG
Pacific white-sided dolphin range

The Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) is a very active dolphin found in the cool to temperate waters of the North Pacific Ocean.


The Pacific white-sided dolphin was named by Smithsonian mammalogist Theodore Nicholas Gill in 1865. It is morphologically similar to the dusky dolphin, which is found in the South Pacific. Genetic analysis by Frank Cipriano suggests the two species diverged about two million years ago.

Though both are traditionally placed in the genus Lagenorhynchus, molecular analyses indicate they are closer to dolphins of the genus Cephalorhynchus. The new genus Sagmatias has been proposed for these species.[3]


Photo of dual-hemisphered brain
Pacific white-sided dolphin's brain at Okinawa Churaumi Aquarium

The Pacific white-sided dolphin has three colors. The chin, throat and belly are creamy white. The beak, flippers, back, and dorsal fin are a dark gray. Light gray patches are seen on the sides and a further light gray stripe runs from above the eye to below the dorsal fin, where it thickens along the tail stock. A dark gray ring surrounds the eyes.

The species is an average-sized oceanic dolphin. Females weigh up to 150 kg (330 lb) and males 200 kg (440 lb) with males reaching 2.5 m (8.2 ft) and females 2.3 m (7.5 ft) in length. Pacific white-sided dolphins tend to be larger than dusky dolphins. Females reach maturity at seven years. The gestation period is one year. Individuals live 40 years or more.

The Pacific white-sided dolphin is extremely active and mixes with many of the other North Pacific cetacean species. It readily approaches boats and bow-rides. Large groups are common, averaging 90 individuals, with supergroups of more than 300. Prey includes mainly hake, anchovies, squid, herring, salmon, and cod.

They have an average of 60 teeth.[4]

Range and habitat[edit]

The range of the Pacific white-sided dolphin arcs across the cool to temperate waters of the North Pacific. Sightings go no further south than the South China Sea on the western side and the Baja California Peninsula on the eastern. Populations may also be found in the Sea of Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk. In the northern part of the range, some individuals may be found in the Bering Sea. The dolphins appear to follow some sort of migratory pattern — on the eastern side they are most abundant in the Southern California Bight in winter, but further north (Oregon, Washington) in summer. Their preference for off-shore deep waters appears to be year-round.

The total population may be as many as 1 million. However, the tendency of Pacific white-sided dolphins to approach boats complicates precise estimates via sampling.


These dolphins keep close company. White-sided dolphins swim in groups of 10 to 100, and can often be seen bow-riding and doing somersaults. Members form a close-knit group and will often care for a sick or injured dolphin. Animals that live in such big social groups develop ways to keep in touch — each dolphin identifies itself by a unique name-whistle. Staying close helps, too. Young dolphins communicate with a touch of a flipper as they swim beside adults.

Relation to humans[edit]

Left: High-jump during Pacific white-sided dolphin show at the Vancouver Aquarium
Right: Pacific white-sided dolphin named Spinnaker at Vancouver Aquarium


Until the United Nations banned certain types of fishing nets in 1993, many Pacific white-sided dolphins were killed in drift nets. One researcher estimated 50,000–89,000 individuals were killed in the 12 years to 1990. Some animals are still killed each year by Japanese hunting drives.


Although overshadowed in popularity by bottlenose dolphins, Pacific white-sided dolphins are also a part of some marine theme park shows. Roughly 100 reside in dolphinaria in North America and Japan.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mead, J.G.; Brownell, R. L. Jr. (2005). "Order Cetacea". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 723–743. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Hammond, P.S., Bearzi, G., Bjørge, A., Forney, K., Karczmarski, L., Kasuya, T., Perrin, W.F., Scott, M.D., Wang, J.Y., Wells, R.S. & Wilson, B. (2008). Lagenorhynchus obliquidens. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 7 October 2008.
  3. ^ Shirihai, H. & Jarrett, B. (2006). Whales, Dolphins and Other Marine Mammals of the World. Princeton Field Guides. pp. 202–205. ISBN 9780691127569. 
  4. ^ Black, Nancy A. (2009). Perrin, William F.; Würsig, Bernd; Thewissen, J. G. M., eds. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals (2 ed.). Burlington Ma.: Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-12-373553-9. 
  • van Waerebeek, Koen; Würsig, Bernd. "Pacific White-sided Dolphin and Dusky Dolphin". In Perrin, William R; Wiirsig, Bernd; Thewissen, J G M. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. pp. 859–60. ISBN 0-12-551340-2. 
  • National Audubon Society: Guide to Marine Mammals of the World ISBN 0-375-41141-0

External links[edit]