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Where do dolphins live?

Dolphins live in the world’s seas and oceans and in some rivers too. Some dolphin species prefer to live in coastal areas, others like shallow water but prefer to live away from the coast close to patches of shallower water which are located further out to sea.

Orcas and long-finned pilot whales can be found in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Their large size means that they have more protection against the harsh cold of the freezing seas. Several other species may also be encountered in colder waters, such as white-beaked dolphins (arctic) and hourglass dolphins (antarctic), but most dolphins prefer tropical and temperate waters as they are warm-blooded mammals and so it is easier for them to regulate their body temperature in these environments. Spinner dolphins and spotted dolphins are two such species that may be encountered in warm waters.

The unusual looking northern and southern right whale dolphins are examples of species that prefer to inhabit offshore waters.

Can dolphins live in fresh water?

River dolphins such as the Amazon River dolphin (boto) and the South Asian river dolphins only live in fresh water rivers and lakes. Some dolphin species have populations that live in fresh water, these include the tucuxi (or sotalia), Irrawaddy dolphin and finless porpoise.

Other species, such as common bottlenose dolphins, may visit or inhabit estuaries of large rivers. Sometimes this results in them living close to cities. A population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins live in the waters off Hong Kong while Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are resident in the waters of the Port River in Adelaide, Australia.

Amazing facts about whales and dolphins

Dive deeper into the world of whales and dolphins and learn more about their lives.

Humpback whale spyhopping
Pair of leaping bottlenose dolphins
Orca (killer whale) at surface
Breaching North Atlantic right whale

Facts about whales

Amazing facts about whales, the largest mammals to live on Earth.

Facts about dolphins

From the orca to the tiny vaquita, learn more about these creatures.

Record breakers

Whales and dolphins hold some incredible records.

Brain power

Just how intelligent are whales and dolphins?

Help us keep all whales and dolphins safe and free

By adopting a dolphin or by making a donation, you can help us protect these amazing creatures.

Port River dolphin

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Humpback whale

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