It doesn’t matter what types of dolphins you are talking about, everyone loves dolphins! These intelligent, social creatures seem to be smiling all the time, while they joyfully swim through the water and leap into the air. While most people know a thing or two about the renowned bottlenose dolphins, there are many more species that deserve as much love and attention.
How many types of dolphins are there in Mexico?
Dolphins can be found in almost every ocean on the planet and, contrary to popular belief, there are over 40 types of dolphins, some of which you probably didn’t even know existed! These animals are mammals that belong to the odontocete cetacean family, which explains why some species of dolphins resemble porpoises rather than the common dolphin we all recognize (more on that later).
Mexico, with its Atlantic and Pacific coasts, is a country with great biodiversity; its waters are teeming with all kinds of animals like sea turtles, rays, fishes and cetaceans. There are 37 cetaceans in Mexico, including the blue whale, the gray whale and the Orca, and 9 types of dolphins, whose shape, length, body size, snout, and dorsal and lateral fins distinguish them from one another.
Read on to find out what makes each of Mexico’s dolphins unique.
Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncates) are the most common type of dolphin and are the type you find in swim-with-dolphins attractions, partially due to their friendly disposition, the permanent “smile” on their face and the fact that they can be trained to perform complex tricks. They are known to leap out of the water and rarely dive into deep waters for more than a few minutes. Bottlenose dolphins are found in the Mexican Caribbean, the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, as well as the Mediterranean, Indian, Red and Black Seas…so pretty much everywhere. No wonder they are so popular!
¡ Did you know…? All the water they consume comes from their diet, they do not drink seawater !
Adult Bottlenose Dolphins are generally from 10 to 14 feet (3 to 4 meters) long and weigh some 1,000 pounds (454 kg). They live 45 to 50 years in the wild. They can swim up to 18 miles an hour and travel in groups, communicating through a complex system of squeaks and whistles. They hunt their prey with expert use of echolocation and dine on bottom-dwelling fish, shrimp, and squid.
The Fraser’s Dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei or Sarawak dolphin) was first identified by Francis Charles Fraser from a mislabeled skeleton in a British museum in 1956 and only ‘rediscovered’ in the wild in the 1970s. They are found in the Gulf of Mexico, the Philippines, and the Eastern Pacific.
¡ Fun fact: In some parts of the world, the species is shy while in others it is more social. This depends entirely on their environment, a sign of their amazing intelligence and adaptability !
Fraser’s dolphins can be up to almost 9 feet (2.7 meters) long and weigh up to 460 pounds (210 kg). They swim very fast and very close together in large groups from 100 to 1000. This is a sight to be seen, as they often significantly porpoise and chop up the water. Sometimes they are seen in groups with related species. They are deep divers, as opposed to the species we previously discussed, and their diet consists of fish, squid, and octopus.
Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins (Stenella frontalis) stand out because of their distinctive spots. They are not born with these spots but begin to develop them when they are 3 years old. Not all Atlantic Spotted Dolphins develop spots, including those that live in the Gulf Stream far offshore. They are found in the temperate and tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean, including the Gulf of Mexico.
¡ Did you know…? A group of dolphins is called a “school” or a “pod”. Male dolphins are called “bulls”, females “cows” and young dolphins are called “calves” !
Atlantic Spotted Dolphins can reach lengths of up to 7.5 feet (2.2 meters) and weigh up to 315 pounds (143 kg). They are extremely playful and social and sometimes keep company with bottlenose dolphins. They feed on fish, squid, and small invertebrates and hunt together at night, circling their prey to prevent them from escaping.
Risso’s Dolphins (Grampus griseus) can be found in almost all temperate and tropical oceans in the world. We don’t know a lot about Risso’s Dolphins because they spend a lot of their time in deep water on the edge of continental shelves. However, there are some places where they are found closer to shore because there are steep drop-offs or abundant food. They are distinguished by their grey body which becomes scarred over time. Their body shape is unlike any other dolphin’s, taking more after its other cetacean cousins like whales and porpoises.
¡ Fun fact: As they age, the grey, pale-bellied adult Risso’s dolphins accumulate scars from tussles with prey and other whales that can make them appear almost entirely white !
Risso’s Dolphins can grow to 13 feet (4 meters) long and weigh up to a whopping 1100 pounds (500 kg). They eat mostly squid, and occasionally prawns, shrimp, and cuttlefish and are busy and social, spending time with their pod and other types of dolphins.
Spinner Dolphins (Stenella longirostris), well, spin! They can jump as high as 10 feet out of the water while spinning like a top. In fact, they can make up to seven full rotations during one breach. It is believed that spinning removes fish that latch on to eat parasites, but is also used to communicate. Spinner Dolphins live in nearly all tropical and subtropical waters between 40°N and 40°S.
¡ Did you know…? Unlike whales, most dolphins do not make huge migrations trips. Some dolphins will migrate due to seasonal changes, but they usually don’t travel nearly as far as some whale species !
Like other dolphins, Spinners live in pods and make sounds like whistles and echolocation clicks. They grow to be some 7 feet (2 meters) long and can weigh up to 170 pounds (77 kilos). They eat small fish, squid, and shrimp, generally at night in the open ocean, and return to shallower waters during the day.
The Rough-toothed Dolphin (Steno bredanensis) stands out because of its prehistoric reptilian look and peculiar teeth. They live in deep, tropical and warm-temperate waters in all of the world’s major oceans.
¡ Fun fact: These animals do not swim as fast as other types of dolphins, but they have large brains and are considered to be one of the smartest dolphin species !
Rough-Toothed Dolphins eat large fish that live near the surface like mahi-mahi, but will also eat squid, octopus, houndfish, and smelt. An adult can grow up to 8 feet (2.4 meters) long and weigh up to 230 pounds (100 kg). They live in tight-knit groups and are very sociable with other dolphin species and even whales.
Pantropical Spotted Dolphin
The Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata) is not born with spots, and adults range in their degree of spottiness, with light spots on their darker back and darker spots on their lighter belly. They swim fast and are very agile, performing various kinds of leaps. Pantropical Spotted Dolphins can be found in a band around the world in both warm tropical and subtropical waters in all of the world’s major oceans and is one of the largest dolphin species in the world in terms of the population.
¡ Fun fact: Pantropical spotted dolphins can be most easily confused with bottlenose dolphins and sometimes with Atlantic spotted dolphins. The differences in size and robustness are good clues, but may require a trained eye to distinguish in many sightings at sea !
Very social creatures, they can be found in schools from fewer than 100 dolphins to offshore pods of thousands. Adults reach lengths of approximately 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) long and can weigh up to 260 pounds (119 kilos), and feed on small schooling fish or sometimes squid or crustaceans.
The Clymene dolphin (Stenella clymene) has only been recognized as a species since 1981 and is thought to be a hybrid species between spinner and striped dolphins. Their black “lips“ give them a distinctive appearance. Thanks to their streamlined bodies, they are the only other type of dolphin that leaps out of the water and spins in the air. The global population is unknown, but they are found in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic Ocean.
¡ Did you know…? This is the first known instance of hybridization among marine mammals leading to a new species; this genetic occurrence is more commonly seen in plants, fish and birds !
Nocturnal hunters, Clymene Dolphins eat a variety of small fish, including lantern fish and squid. They are normally found in groups of less than 50 living in deep waters far from shore. They can grow to a length of 6.5 feet (2 meters) and weight up to 400 pounds (180 kilos).
The Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) has been extensively studied and is distinguished by its beautiful stripes. A very active species, Striped Dolphins swim at top speed, perform many acrobatics and can leap out of the water for a distance up to three times their own length. They are curious and love to play. They tend to prefer deep water and can be found throughout the world’s temperate and tropical oceans.
¡ Did you know…there’s even more to know about dolphins? Here are 15 Fun Facts About Dolphins !
Striped Dolphins are relatively small, with a maximum length of 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) and a maximum weight of 350 pounds (160 kg). They feed on smaller fish, like lantern-fish, found in deep waters.
Swim with Dolphins Cancun
Now that you know all about the types of dolphins that can be found in Mexico, get up close and personal with Bottlenose Dolphins with Aquaworld’s experiences, including…
· Friendly Encounter, a great option for kids to greet the dolphins, play with them, listen to them “speak” and take a photo with them.
· Signature, a chance to communicate directly with the dolphins and listen to them communicating underwater.
· Dolphin Trainer for a Day, an all-day, in-depth program that puts you in the (water) shoes of a dolphin trainer.
· Ocean Secrets, an underwater, interactive look at dolphins that allows you to experience how they behave and interact.
· Fintastic, a classic swim with dolphins program that includes a foot push and dorsal ride.