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Dolphin vs Porpoise Differences and Comparison

Dolphin vs Porpoise Differences and Comparison
Difference Between Dolphin and Porpoise

Are dolphins and porpoises both mammals?

Dolphins and Porpoises belong to the Cetacean order of marine mammals. They are widely known due to their cute and cuddly look; often people misattribute them as a similar creature as they bear a strong resemblance to each other. However, dolphin and porpoise are very different from each other. Dolphins come from the Delphinidae family whereas porpoises belong to Phocoenidae family; both have different anatomical structure and behavior. Here an intriguing question arises, what would happen if they encounter each other or who will win if an animal duel occurs between them. To decide the winner between dolphin and porpoise we need to know about them.

Anatomical Structure:

At a glance dolphin and porpoise may look similar but one can identify these two by inspecting their head and dorsal fin. Both are warm-blooded marine mammals; Dolphins have a long nose which appears like beak whereas porpoise is flat-faced having small snout. Dolphin’s dorsal fin is curved and appears like a hook while the porpoise has a triangular dorsal fin. Their teeth also have different shapes, dolphin’s teeth are sharp and conical while the porpoise teeth are flat having a spade-like shape.

The size of dolphin and porpoise also varies but generally, dolphins are larger. Dolphins are mainly grey coloured but their colour also varies from grey with black and white pattern or pink. Porpoises are grey with a slightly blue undertone and are darker than dolphins. Unlike other fishes, Dolphins and porpoises cannot breathe underwater as they don’t have gills. They come to the surface and breathe air through the blowhole present on their back. Dolphins have longer noses, bigger mouths, more curved dorsal fins, and longer, leaner bodies than porpoises.

Locomotion and Echolocation:

Dolphins and porpoises swim with their fins; pectoral fins help them to steer underwater, dorsal fin provides them stability. Dolphins can attain a swimming speed of about 18 miles per hour while for a short distance porpoises can swim with a speed of 34 miles per hour fastest among all cetaceans. 

To navigate underwater, hunt, avoiding predators and for communication both dolphins and porpoises use echolocation also known as bio-sonar. They emit calls and listen to echoes coming back after hitting objects near them through external ear openings present behind their eyes. Dolphins and porpoise have weak olfactory sense.


The mating season of dolphins and porpoises is very short. Dolphins usually have paired bonds that stay for a whole lifetime whereas porpoises don’t exhibit such behavior. Both of them give birth after a gestation period ranging from 7-12 months. Both of them give birth to 1-2 calves which feeds on their mother’s milk until they become 1 year old.

Behavioral Traits:

Dolphins are more social than porpoise; they live in a group called pods. They hunt and live together, a “superpod” can contain 1,000 dolphins travelling and hunting together. They communicate and coordinate with each other through whistles, clicking and ultrasonic sounds. Porpoises are shy, they live alone and rarely seen in groups. Unlike dolphins, porpoises don’t communicate much.

Amazing Fun Facts for kids:

  • Bottle nose dolphins called their pod member-specific sounds to address the loved ones.
  • Both dolphins and porpoise have cognitive abilities, They can identify themselves in a mirror.
  • The “Killer Whale” or “Orca” is not a whale but a dolphin.
  • Orca can grow up to 35 feet long whereas the hector’s dolphin found in New Zealand are only 4 feet long.
  • There are 7 Porpoise species and 42 dolphin species. to be specific only 32 living species of dolphins and only 6 species of porpoises are present.
  • Each have complex brains with oil-filled foreheads called a melon, making them highly intelligent and perspective.

Battle: Animal Duel: Who will win?

When it comes to face to face fight between dolphins and porpoises, the dolphin will have a heavy hand as they are bigger and heavier than porpoises. Sometimes dolphins also attack porpoises and kill them, it makes clear that if an adult dolphin confronts an adult porpoise then it is most likely that porpoise will get killed. However, the porpoise being the fastest cetacean; it can only swim away from dolphin but cannot defeat it. Hence, we predict dolphin as the winner of this duel.

Comparison Chart: Dolphin vs Porpoise

Comparison HeadsDolphinPorpoise
SizeGenerally 1-6 m longGenerally 1.5-2.5 m long
Teeth ShapeSharp and ConicalFlat and spade like
DietFish, crabs and other marine animalsFish, squid and other marine animals
PredatorsSharks, Killer WhaleSharks, Killer whale and sometime dolphins too.
BehaviourSocial and live in podsShy and prefer to live alone
HabitatFound in all oceans and some riversOnly found in pacific ocean
Shape of dorsal finCurved and hook likeTriangular

Comparison Video: Dolphin vs Porpoise

FAQ’S: Frequently Asked Questions

Do dolphins kill porpoises?

Dolphins don’t eat porpoises, They ram, bite, throw them like a maimed mouse.

Which is smarter dolphin or porpoise?

both are very intelligent species but dolphins are typically more curious than porpoises.

What is the IQ of dolphins?

The orca has 2.57 IQ
The bottle nose dolphin has 4.14 IQ
The tucuxi dolphin has 4.56 IQ
The La Plata dolphin has 1.67 IQ
The Ganges dolphin has 1.55 IQ

Do dolphins lay eggs?

Dolphins give birth to young rather laying eggs and they feed them with milk.

What is a group of dolphins called?

Pods, Dolphins are social animals they often hunt and travel in groups called pods.

What is the rarest dolphin?

Māui dolphin found off the west coast of New Zealand’s, and are rarest and smallest dolphin subspecies.