Short-Beaked Hourglass Dolphin (Delphinus delphis)

Popularity: Hourglass dolphins are fairly popular. They are one of the most popular breeds of dolphin for people who are familiar with dolphins, yet many people don’t even know there’s such a thing. One thing assisting their popularity is that they are normally one of the first dolphin breeds that people who are beginning to learn about dolphins discover.

Other Names: Other names for hourglass dolphin include common dolphin, saddleback dolphin, white-bellied porpoise, criss-cross dolphin, cape dolphin, and common porpoise.

The names white-bellied porpoise and common porpoise are not good names to use. Dolphins and porpoises are not the same thing, so using one of these names may cause great confusion. To learn more about the differences between dolphins and porpoises check out our cetaceans post.

Even though common dolphin is the most common name, we use the name hourglass dolphin because it makes more sense. They get the name common dolphin because they’re common in almost all oceans. In a place like Florida they don’t stand up to the “common” part of their name even though you can still see them there because the bottle-nose dolphin competes for the same name. The name hourglass dolphin comes from the two bands on their sides that look kind of like hourglasses.

Range: Hourglass dolphins have a worldwide range. They can be found in half of the North Pacific, almost all of the North Atlantic, almost all of the South Pacific, most of the South Atlantic and Indo-Pacific. They rarely (if ever) venture into Arctic or Antarctic waters.

Coloring: Hourglass dolphins are one of the most outstandingly beautiful dolphins. They have two bands of color running down their sides. The front band (the one that touches the head and runs down the side) is yellow and the back band (the band running along the tail) is gray creating a stunning contrast. Their black backs and white stomachs contribute to this dazzling effect.

Diet: Hourglass dolphins mainly eat fish. They aren’t picky about what fish either. Like most dolphins, hourglass dolphins will eat just about any fish they can get in their mouth, also squid, and occasionally crustaceans.

Pods: Hourglass dolphin pods can be extremely big. The average pod consists of about 500 individuals, and occasionally 2,000 individuals will live in one pod.

There are three different types of dolphin pods. One pod has only females and calves. Another type of pod has only young males in it. These pods travel to female pods to mate. Another type of pod has only old males that are too old to mate.

Other Good Resources On Hourglass Dolphins

Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises by Mark Carwardine has good information on the identification of hourglass dolphins.

 The Blue Planet series of movies produced by BBC has good information and video footage of hourglass dolphins.

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