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Dolphins: Delphinidae

Spinner Dolphin (stenella Longirostris): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Spinner dolphins, also called long-snouted dolphins, are known for their acrobatic displays. Spinner dolphins are about 7.7 feet (2.3 meters) long and weigh about 170 pounds (78 kilograms). Males are usually larger than females. They vary in color from individuals that are all gray to ones having black backs, gray sides, and white bellies.

Geographic range: Spinner dolphins are found worldwide in tropical and subtropical waters.

Habitat: Spinner dolphins mainly live in the open ocean, although they may come into shallow waters to feed.

Diet: Spinners are carnivores. They tend to feed at night and eat mainly fish, squid, octopus, and shrimp.

Spinner dolphins form pods that may contain more than 1,000 individuals. They are very social and communicate with each other by sound and touch. (© Tony Wu/www.silentsymphony.com. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: Spinner dolphins form schools or pods that may contain more than 1,000 individuals. They are very social and communicate with each other by sound and touch. They are best known for their ability to leap out of the water and turn on their longitudinal, long, vertical, axis. Some can spin as many as seven times on one jump. This behavior gave them their common name.

Less is known about the reproductive behavior of spinner dolphins than some other species because they live farther out in the ocean and they do not survive well in captivity. Females produce one calf after about a ten-and-a-half-month pregnancy. New calves are born about every three years.

Spinner dolphins and people: Spinners were the first dolphins captured for display in marine parks because of their ability to leap and spin, but they do not survive well in captivity. Their amazing leaps and spins attract ecotourists who want watch these animals in their natural habitat. Because they often associate with tuna, they are sometimes accidentally killed by fishing gear.

Conservation status: Spinner dolphins are not threatened. ∎



American Cetacean Society, Chuck Flaherty and David G. Gordon. Field Guide to the Orcas. Seattle: Sasquatch Books, 1990.

Carwadine, Mark, and Martin Camm. Smithsonian Handbooks: Whales Dolphins and Porpoises. New York: DK Publishing, 2002.

Ellis, Richard. Dolphins and Porpoises. New York: Knopf, 1989.

Gowell, Elizabeth T. Whales and Dolphins: What They Have in Common. New York: Franklin Watts, 2000.

Mead, James G., and Joy P. Gold. Whales and Dolphins in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2002.

Nowak, Ronald. M. "Dolphins." In Walker's Mammals of the World Online 5.1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. http://www.press.jhu.edu/books/walkers_mammals_of_the_world/cetacea/cetacea.delphinidae.html (accessed on July 8, 2004)

Web sites:

American Cetacean Society. http://www.acsonline.org (accessed on July 8, 2004).

"Animal Information." Sea World. http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info (accessed on July 8, 2004).

Dolphin Research Center. http://www.dolphins.org (accessed on July 8, 2004).

Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. http://www.wdcs.org (accessed on July 8, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsDolphins: Delphinidae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Dolphins And People, Conservation Status, Killer Whale (orcinus Orca): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT