Whale vs Dolphin Differences and Comparison

Difference Between Whale and Dolphin

Overview: Whale vs Dolphin

The two aquatic mammal viz. dolphins and whales are easy to recognize due to their distinctive features. Both of them belong to cetaceans; they have different abilities, strengths, intelligence, and physiology. The most astonishing fact to know about is that, dolphins are smaller whales. These fascinating animals got a lot for us to know; let’s know about the difference between them. If an animal duel occurs between them then who would win??

Physical traits:

Whales and dolphins are cetaceans which means they are descendants of land-living that returned to salt or fresh water after living on the land for million years. Both whales and dolphins have characteristics similar to mammals like hair, warm blood, and lung-based breathing. Their bodies are like fish but they give birth to living offspring and nurture them. Whales and dolphins both have back or dorsal fins and tails fins called flukes which provide them tremendous power and speed in the water.

Sharks also have a similar size as whales and dolphins but they are able to breathe only when they swim, for breathing they need to swim continuously. Contrary to sharks, whales, and dolphins breathe with their blowholes; they are conscious breathers and decide when they have to breathe. Both whales and dolphins come on the water surface to breathe from their blowholes.

Cetaceans do cat-napping to sleep; they shut one-half of their mind to sleep while the other part is conscious to protect them from obstacles or predators and to breathe. For two hours the sides got flipped and the other part of the brain rests.

Whale’s size varies depending on the species; their size is between 11 and 110 feet long.  Dolphins are quite small in size their length is about 4-35 feet. Whales are divided into two types based on their teeth viz. baleen whales and toothed whales. Baleen whales have a fringed structure of teeth, they filter a large amount of water and filter plankton from the water. Toothed whales like dolphins, sperm whales, orcas (killer whales) feed on squids, octopus, fish, marine mammals, and other whales too. Dolphins have sharp conical teeth which range between 58-98 in number.


Baleen, humpback, and blue whales live in arctic water and feed on krill. Plankton and small marine mammals. Blue whales can gulp water of about 140% of their mass. Due to their large size, they feed continuously and consume up to 2 tons of food. Dolphins are strategic predators, to kill their prey they bring it in shallow water and beach them.


Whales and dolphins use echolocation to hunt; they produce a sound with their blowhole in water and listen to the rebounded echoes through which they identify the location of their prey.  

Cognitive Abilities:

Whales and dolphins are highly intelligent creatures; they observe, learn, cooperate, scheme and grieves. Whales make melodic sounds often known as whale songs. Both whales and dolphins have strong social bonds with the members of their pods (a group of whales and dolphins).

Amazing Fact:

  • Bottlenose dolphins name themselves and call their dear ones (mother, friends) by their names. Dolphins are the only animals that can do this.
  • The whale can devour a large bite out of a krill swarm which provides them up to 5, 00,000 calories in a single bite.
  • Baleen whales have two blowholes whereas toothed whales have only one blowhole.

Combat: Duel: Who would win?

All dolphins are whales whereas not all whales are dolphins. Orcas or Killer whales are the largest species of dolphins; they also live in pods. Whereas whales such as baleen, humpback, blue whales live a solitary life. It has never been recorded that a pod of dolphins or a dolphins ever attacked the whale. Whale is the largest mammal having humungous size; no marine animal including dolphin dare to attack them. Hence, the whale is an unopposed winner of this duel.

Comparison Chart: Blue Whale vs Dolphin

Comparison HeadsWhaleBottlenose Dolphin
Size25 metre (blue whale)3-4metre
Mass50,000-1,50,000 kg150-200 kg
Social BehaviorSolitarySocial; live in pods
Top Speed50 km/hr30 km/hr
lifespan30-85 yearsAbout 40 years

Comparison Video: Whale vs Dolphin