belly flopping

Northern Right Whale Dolphin

The northern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) is a right whale dolphin.

As young calves, these dolphins are greyish brown or sometimes cream. They stay like this for a year, before their body turns black in colour, with a clear white belly, and a white tip to their lower jaw. There are rightwhale dolphins in the north Pacific ocean, and in the Southern oceans above Antarctica, around Tazmania, New Zealand, and even South Africa. The dolphins in the Pacific are the Northern rightwhale dolphins, and are longer with less white on their bodies, than the Southern species. Both have no fin on their smoothly curving backs, and are long and sleek compared to other dolphins.

They have short thin beaks, and gently sloping foreheads, with pointed tips to their flippers and their tail flukes. They have 74 to 98 teeth on both their upper and lower jaws.

Field ID: Streamlined body; smoothly sloping forehead; short, defined beak, no teeth visible; straight mouthline; irregular white patch on chin; small, narrow flippers; pointed flippers; black and white in colour; light under-side (belly); white underside; no dorsal fin; tail flukes are triangular; calm and silky movements

Length (metres): Adults range from 2-3 metres, new-borns are c. 90cm

Weight: Adults weigh between 60-100kg

Diet: Fish & squid


This species usually travel in groups of between 5 animals and 200. When travelling fast the group will look like they're bouncing along on the water, as they make low leaps together, sometimes travelling as far as 7 metres in one leap! They are timid animals, and usually avoid boats. These graceful swimmers may bow-ride sometimes, and are spotted occasionally doing acrobatics, such as breaching, belly-flopping, side slapping and lobtailing.


  • WDCS web page

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