White-beaked dolphin

Lagenorhynchus albirostris
Other names: 
  • White-nosed dolphin
  • Squidhound
  • White-beaked porpoise
Maximum length: 
  • Male: 3.1m
  • Female: 2.83m
  • Calf: 1.1m
Maximum weight: 
  • Male: 350 kg's
  • Female: Unknown
  • Calf: 40 kg's
  • Mesopelagic and schooling fish (including hake, herring, whiting, cod and haddock)
  • Squid
  • Crustaceans
Estimated population: 
IUCN Listing: 
CITES Appendix: 
CMS Appendix: 
II (North and Baltic Sea populations)

Although it is called the white-beaked dolphin, many individuals may have grey or black beaks. Beak colour is highly variable, though the very tip of the beak is always white. The white-beaked dolphin ranges further north than any other Lagenorhynchus species, and may be found at the edges of the Arctic pack ice. Recent genetic studies suggest that in the near future, the white-beaked dolphin will be the only remaining member of the genus Lagenorhynchus with the other members being reclassified.


This species has a stubby beak and sloping melon. The dorsal fin is tall and slightly falcate with a pointed tip and both the dorsal fin and flukes get proportionally larger as the animal ages. The flippers are pointed, broad and almost 20% of the total body length. It has a black or dark grey cape extending to below the dorsal fin. There is a band of white or pale grey along the flanks from above the flippers to below the dorsal fin, as well as a pale grey or white saddle behind the dorsal fin covering the majority of the tailstock. The belly, cheeks and throat are white, and some individuals have a dark gape to flipper line. The dark melon is set off by a greyish collar in front of the blowhole. Confusion may occur with the Atlantic white-sided dolphin, however attention must be made to colouration as that species has a distinctive yellow patch on the tailstock.


White-beaked dolphins are fast, powerful swimmers. Although the species can be elusive, they are also known to be highly active, breaching and porpoising frequently, and also avid bow-riders in many parts of their range. They generally travel in pods of between 5 and 50 individuals, but it is not unusual to see herds of several hundred, or even thousands, of animals. White-beaked dolphins can sometimes be seen associating with rorquals, such as fin and humpback whales, and often form mixed schools with Atlantic white-sided dolphins and bottlenose dolphins when feeding.


White-beaked dolphins are found in the cold temperate sub-polar waters of the north Atlantic Ocean. In the western Atlantic they can be found as far south as Cape Cod, and in the eastern Atlantic they are rarely seen south of the UK. While not hunted on a large scale, they are the target of small-scale hunts in some countries. The species is also at risk from bycatch, and chemical pollution. Other threats include climate change and vessel collisions. There are very few global abundance estimates although population figures are thought to number in the tens if not hundreds of thousands. The IUCN lists this species as of ‘Least Concern'.

Distribution map: