Dolphin vs. Porpoise


Dolphins and porpoises are both cataceans, i.e. marine mammals, and are closely related to whales.

Dolphins belong to the family Delphinidae and are up to 30 feet long. Porpoises, belonging to family Phocoenidae are smaller, but stouter than dolphins.

Comparison chart

Edit this comparison chart



Size Dolphin sizes vary from 4 ft to 30 ft. Porpoises are usually smaller (4.9ft-8.2 ft) but stouter than dolphins.
Overview Dolphins are marine mammals closely related to whales and porpoises. Porpoises are smaller marine mammals related to whales and dolphins.
Teeth Structure Dolphin teeth are conical. Porpoises have flattened, spade-shaped teeth.
Scientific classification (Order & Family) Dolphins are cetaceans of the family Delphinidae. Porpoises are small cetaceans of the family Phocoenidae.
Social Behavior Dolphins are very social and tend to show a less fear of human than porpoises. Porpoises are relatively shy, and are therefore rarely seen in marine animal shows.
Dorsal Fin Most dolphins have a curved dorsal fin. A porpoise's dorsal fin is generally triangular, somewhat like sharks.
Head Dolphins have a round, bulbous "melon" in the head and elongated jaws that often form a distinct beak. Porpoises have small, rounded heads and blunt jaws instead of beaks.
Range Dolphins are found in all oceans Porpoises are only found in the Pacific

Contents: Dolphin vs Porpoise

edit Anatomy

Dolphins have a bulbous "melon" in the head distinct beak with conical teeth. Their dorsal fin is curved.

Close up of a dolphin's head
Close up of a dolphin's head

Porpoises have small, rounded heads and blunt jaws with flat, spade-shaped teeth. Their dorsal fin is triangular.

edit Social Behavior

Dolphins are social, living in pods of up to a dozen individuals. In places with a high abundance of food, pods can merge temporarily, forming a superpod, which may exceed 1,000 dolphins. They communicate using a variety of clicks, whistles and other vocalizations, and ultrasonic sounds for echolocation. Dolphins can establish strong social bonds. They will stay with injured or ill individuals, even helping them to breathe by bringing them to the surface if needed.

Porpoises are smaller and have a triangular dorsal fin
Porpoises are smaller and have a triangular dorsal fin

Porpoises are relatively shy and are seen alone or in groups containing a few individuals, but rarely in large pods. These groups are not stable associations, but ephemeral groupings that change as individuals join or leave. Porpoises act in a coordinated fashion even when they are hundreds of feet apart. They are capable of echolocation for finding prey and group coordination, but do not use it to communicate as often as dolphins do.

edit Intelligence

Dolphins and porpoises are highly intelligent. They have large, complex brains and are self-aware like humans. They are among the few species in the world that can identify themselves in a mirror. After years of research, scientists have said that cetaceans (including porpoises, dolphins and whales) should have rights just like humans.[1] Bottlenose dolphins call out the specific names of loved ones when they become separated. Other than humans, dolphins are the only known species to call each other by name.[2]

edit References

Share this comparison:

If you read this far, you should follow us on:

"Dolphin vs Porpoise." Diffen LLC, n.d. Web. 31 Oct 2014. < >

Related Comparisons Follow Diffen
Make Diffen Smarter.

Log in to edit comparisons or create new comparisons in your area of expertise!

Sign up »
Top 5 Comparisons

Comments: Dolphin vs Porpoise

Comments via Facebook

Anonymous comments (3)

February 11, 2013, 4:28am

All of those statements really do make them sound like they have the same frailties as Humans. I'm glad I'm not judged based upon what other humans do. Rape, murder. My goodness what if I were lumped together with a politician. On a lighter note. I was diving the anchor in the BVI when 3 dolphins entertained my crew my shadowing me. Each time I dove to reach the anchor they dove next to me. My crew watched while I was unaware. When I surfaced so did they. I must have amused them. Perhaps they thought I inadequate in my lack of depth or time or perhaps both.

— 76.✗.✗.113

May 31, 2013, 1:34am

"lesser fear of man," -which makes working with Dolphins easy and friendly. Dolphins remind me of humans except they are marine versions of ourselves.

— 99.✗.✗.239

May 9, 2014, 7:05pm

Porpoises, divided into six species, live in ALL oceans, and mostly near the shore.

— 68.✗.✗.127


Up next

Dolphin vs. Whale