Right Whale Dolphins


Common Name: Right Whale Dolphins
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
Suborder: Odontoceti
Family: Delphinidae
Genus: Lissodelphis
Species: Two species:Northern right whale dolphin Lissodelphis borealis
Southern right whale dolphin Lissodelphis peronii

Southern Right Whale Dolphin Lissodelphis peronii



Right whale dolphins belong to the Mammalian Order Cetacea, in the suborder Odontoceti.  All toothed whales belong to the suborder Odontoceti, which is Latin for "toothed whales".  These dolphins belong to the oceanic dolphin family, Delphinidae.  Other members of this family include the killer whale, long-beaked common dolphin, and pilot whale.  There are two species of right whale dolphin, both belonging to the genus Lissodelphis.  They are called right whale dolphins because they lack a dorsal fin, similar to right whales of the genus Eubalaena, which also lack dorsal fins. The generic name Lissodelphis is derived from the Greek words lisso, meaning "smooth", and delphis meaning "dolphin".  This may refer to the sleek appearance of these species.  The northern right whale dolphin's scientific name is Lissodelphis borealis.  The specific name borealis means "northern", referring to the dolphin's northern range.   The northern right whale dolphin's scientific name is Lissodelphis borealis.  The specific name peronii is named for Francois Peron (1775-1810).  Peron was a French biologist on an expedition to Australia.

Northern Right Whale Dolphin Lissodephis borealis

Right whale dolphins do not have a very distinct melon.  Northern right whale dolphins are completely black, with a white chest patch and ventral stripe.  Southern right whale dolphins are black with white heads, pectoral flippers, and sides.  Both species are similar in size.  Males reach nine feet in length and 250lbs in weight.  Females grow to seven feet in length and 170lbs in weight.


The northern right whale dolphin inhabits the temperate waters of the Pacific Ocean, while the southern right whale dolphin is found throughout the temperate waters of the Southern Hemisphere.  Both species feed on deep sea fish, including lanternfish, and squid.


Right whale dolphins are commonly observed in groups of more than 100 individuals.  Calves are 2-3ft at birth.


The northern right whale dolphin is threatened by squid and krill nets.  The estimated population for those living off the coast of California is 79,000 individuals.


Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.