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Clymene dolphin

Stenella clymene

Leaping and twisting through the air, the truly beautiful Clymene dolphins are aerodynamic wonders.

Only recognized as their own distinct species since 1981, Clymene dolphins have long been confused with spinners dolphins, probably , because the species is a result of a past hybridisation event between spinner and striped dolphin.

Other names: Helmet dolphin, Senegal dolphin, Short-snouted spinner dolphin, Atlantic spinner dolphin

Dolphin illustration
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 2.0m 1.9m 1.2m
Maximum weight 80kg Unknown 10kg

IUCN conservation status: Least Concern

What do Clymene dolphins look like?

Clymene dolphins look a lot like spinners dolphins but given their heritage this is not unexpected.. Whilst identification still proves tricky from a distance, they have certain behavioural characteristics and facial markings that help set them apart.

Fantastically stream-lined, their most striking feature is their stunning tri-colour patterning on their robust bodies. Sporting a dark grey cape which gently contours into an S-shape, Clymene dolphins have pale grey sides and a white, sometimes pinkish, chin and belly. Their neatly proportioned beaks (shorter than spinners dolphins’) have black tips and ‘lips’ and a black stripe along the top. A humorous addition, they sometimes have additional stripes around the beak, giving them a slightly moustachioed look. To complete the ensemble, they also have a dark grey stripe from the eye to the flipper.

Jutting out from their bodies Clymene dolphins’ dorsal fins vary in form, from triangular to bow shaped. Their elegant flippers are slender and well-defined and, on their tales, their flukes have a distinct notch in the middle and curve upwards into neat, pointy tips.

What is life like for Clymeme dolphins?

Making use of their streamlined, aero-dynamic bodies, Clymene dolphins are the only species of dolphin (other than the aptly-named spinners) who leap from the water and spin through the air. Using their tails to propel themselves from the water, they rotate their whole bodies and perform impressive corkscrew twists. As well as their airborne displays, they also breach and bow ride, occasionally approaching boats. . Social beings, Clymene dolphins are usually found in groups of 50 or fewer and stick to deep waters away from the shore.

The total population size for the Clymene dolphin is unknown.

What do Clymene dolphins eat?

As part of their diet, Clymene dolphins tuck into a variety of small fish, including lantern fish and squid. When feeding, it’s not unusual to see them alongside other small dolphins such as common and spinner dolphins

Where do Clymene dolphins live?

Fans of warmer waters, Clymene dolphins can be found in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic Ocean. Spotted as far north as New Jersey on America’s east coast and as far south as southern Brazil, they can also be found off West Africa between the equator and Mauritania.

Although it’s thought that certain populations of Clymene dolphins are doing well, a global population is unknown. Unfortunately, they often become fatally entangled in fishing gear and continue to be victims of intentional takes – deliberately targeted in harpoon fisheries in the Caribbean and off the coast of West Africa.

Distribution map

Clymene dolphin distribution map

Clymene dolphins need your help

The main threats...

  • Hunting – several countries still hunt and kill clymene dolphins in the Caribbean and off the coast of West Africa
  • Fishing gear – clymene dolphins get accidentally caught in fishing nets and lines, injuring or even killing them.

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