Dolphins are a highly intelligent group of marine mammals; they belong to the same taxonomic order as whales and porpoises. Some species of dolphin are endemic to the Atlantic Ocean -- they are found nowhere else on the planet -- while others have worldwide distributions. Species that occur exclusively in the Atlantic may have limited ranges within, often determined by temperature.
Spots, Stripes and Spins
Among the dolphins who call the Atlantic Ocean home are spinner dolphins and Clymene dolphins, known for their ability to twirl in the air. Spinner dolphins perform up to four airborne revolutions in a single leap, while Clymene dolphins don't complete even a single turn. Spinner dolphins are found in tropical and subtropical waters in all oceans; Clymene dolphins are endemic to warm Atlantic waters. Both belong to taxonomic genus Stenella, whose five members have slender beaks and can be found in the Atlantic. The other three species -- the striped dolphin, pantropical spotted dolphin and Atlantic spotted dolphin -- are named for their distinctive body markings.
A Touch of White
Five of the six dolphin species in genus Lagenorhynchus occur in the Atlantic Ocean, where they inhabit polar to temperate waters. Often called white-sided dolphins, species of this genus have a defining short beak. The white-beaked dolphin, the largest species, is found in subpolar waters in the northern Atlantic. The Atlantic white-sided dolphin also inhabits the northern Atlantic Ocean but in temperate waters. Also in this genus are dusky dolphins, named for their dark backs. They are found along the Atlantic coast of South Africa and around the Falkland Islands of South America, where their range overlaps with that of Peale's dolphins, another Lagenorhynchus species.
The two species of common dolphin -- the short-beaked and the long-beaked -- occur in the northern and southern Atlantic Ocean, respectively. Common dolphins are known for their patchwork of colors, which include nearly black backs, white bellies and gray-and-yellow sides. The coloration of the short-beaked species is more pronounced.
The bottlenose dolphin and the rough-toothed dolphin have global distributions that encompass the Atlantic Ocean, where they are found in tropical and subtropical waters. The former is popular with humans for what appears to be a smiling expression. The latter, a deep water species, is known for his elongated rostrum or beak. The Atlantic Ocean also hosts the Commerson's dolphin and Heaviside's dolphin, which belong to the genus Cephalorhynchus, a group of small dolphins with rounded flippers, blunt heads and black-and-white coloration. The former is found around South America's eastern coast, the latter endemic to waters off the coast of South Africa.
- Encyclopedia Britannica: Dolphin
- American Cetacean Society: Common Dolphin
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Delphinus Capensis
- American Cetacean Society: Bottlenose Dolphin
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Risso's Dolphin
- IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Grampus Griseus
- NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources: Striped Dolphin
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Atlantic Spotted Dolphin
- NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources: Spinner Dolphin
- NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources: Clymene Dolphin
- NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources: Pantropical Spotted Dolphin
- Canisius Ambassadors for Conservation: White Sided Dolphin
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Heaviside's Dolphin
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Commerson's Dolphin
- NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources: White-Beaked Dolphin
- University of Michigan Animal Diversity Web: Hourglass Dolphin
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Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.