Animal Database

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Animal Database
Animal Database
Lagenorhynchus albirostris
Range Subarctic waters of the North Atlantic Ocean.
Estimated Population Big
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Artiodactyla
Family Delphinidae
Genus Lagenorhynchus
Species L. albirostris
Conservation Status
Least Concern

The white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) is a marine mammal belonging to the family Delphinidae (oceanic dolphins) in the suborder Odontoceti (toothed whales).


The species was first described by the British taxonomist John Edward Gray in 1846. Due to its relative abundance in European waters, it was among the first of the genus Lagenorhynchus (lagenos, Latin for "bottle" or "flask"; rhynchos, "beak" or "snout") to be known to science. Its specific name, albirostris, translates to "white beak", a reference to the color of the species' beak, a diagnostic (albeit variable) trait useful in identification.


The white-beaked dolphin is a robust species of dolphin with a short beak. Adults can reach 2.3 to 3.1 m (7 ft 7 in to 10 ft 2 in) long and weigh 180 to 354 kg (397 to 780 lb). Calves are 1.1 to 1.2 m (3 ft 7 in to 3 ft 11 in) long at birth and probably weigh about 40 kg (88 lb). The upper body and flanks are dark grey with light grey patches, including a 'saddle' behind the dorsal fin, while the underside is light grey to almost white in color. The flippers, fluke, and the tall, falcate, dorsal fin are all a darker grey than the body. As the common name implies, the beak is usually white in color, but it may be a dark, ashy grey, in some older individuals.

White-beaked dolphins have 25 to 28 teeth in each jaw, although the three teeth closest to the front of the mouth are often not visible, failing to erupt from the gums. They have up to 92 vertebrae, more than any other species of oceanic dolphin. Although the young are born with two to four whiskers on each side of the upper lip, these disappear as they grow, and, as in other odontocetes, the adults are entirely hairless. The humerus of the right flipper has been recorded as being longer and more robust than that on the left, indicating a degree of lateralized behavior.


The population, breeding pattern, and life expectancy of the dolphin are all unknown, although most sources estimate several hundred thousand individuals, more densely populated in the eastern North Atlantic than the west.

White-beaked dolphins feed predominantly on gadoid fishes, particularly cod, haddock, and whiting. They are social animals, most commonly found in groups of less than ten, but sometimes in much larger associations of over a hundred individuals. Their sonar clicks have a peak frequency of 115 kHz, while their social whistles are at around 35 kHz, and can be audible to others of their species at distances of up to 10 km (6.2 mi).

White-beaked dolphins are acrobatic; they will frequently ride on the bow wave of high-speed boats and jump clear of the sea's surface. Although they are normally much slower, they can swim at up to 30 km/h (19 mph) and can dive to at least 45 m (148 ft) depth. They are social feeders and have frequently been observed feeding with killer, fin, and humpback whales, as well as other dolphin species.

Mating probably takes place in the summer, with calves being born in the following year, between June and September. Females reach their adult size at around five years of age, and are sexually mature at six to ten years, while males reach adult size at around ten years, and reach sexual maturity about two years later than females.


The North and Baltic Sea populations of the white-beaked dolphin are listed on Appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), since they have an unfavourable conservation status or would benefit significantly from international co-operation organised by tailored agreements.

In addition, the white-beaked dolphin is covered by the Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic, North East Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS).


Diet: Fish, crustaceans, cephalopods.


The life expectancy of white-beaked dolphins is unknown, though dolphins in general live about 40 years in the wild.



  • White-beaked dolphins can reach speeds of 45 kph (28 mph).
  • The world population of white-beaked dolphins is estimated to be at least over 100,000.
  • The only natural predators that prey upon white-beaked dolphins are orcas and larger forms of sharks. Only in the rarest of circumstances do polar bears prey on these dolphins.
  • The genus name Lagenorhynchus comes from the Latin words lagenos which means “bottle,” and rhynchos means “beak.”
  • The specific scientific name albirostris means “white beak.”
  • White-beaked dolphins have been spotted harassing whales to make them swim faster in order to create a wake for the dolphins to swim in.
  • White-beaked dolphins are the largest examples of the Lagenorhynchus genus.
  • White-beaked dolphin pods are sometimes segregated by sex. All-male pods are referred to as an “alliance,” while an all-female pod is a “party.” 
  • The clicks and whistles are able to communicate a wide range of ideas: that a dolphin wants to mate, that there is danger, and that it has found food, for example.