Striped dolphin

Stenella coeruleoalba


Size: 1.8 – 2.5 m

Key feature: Dark side stripe from eye down the flank.

Striped dolphins, with a similar size and shape can be confused with short-beaked common dolphins; however there are a few obvious differences. Striped dolphins have a characteristic striped pattern on their sides. A distinctive dark side stripe runs from their eye to their tail stock, another from their eye to their flippers. They also have a pale grey blaze that sweeps up towards the dorsal fin.


They are highly energetic, fast and acrobatic, often leaping clear of the water all together. They travel in tightly packed groups, usually of 25 individuals, however groups of up to 200 have been spotted. They are cautious of boats, often avoiding them then leaping into the wake once the boat has passed. Striped dolphins are often seen with common dolphins and will often ride in the bow wave of a boat when with them. They are also regularly seen with feeding fin whales.


Striped dolphins have a global distribution from warm temperate to tropical seas. They are rarely seen in coastal waters, such as those around the UK. However, they are much more abundant further south, such as in the Bay of Biscay. They are regularly observed from ferry surveys and Sea Safari's travelling from Plymouth and Portsmouth through the Bay of Biscay towards Spain.


The striped dolphin is subject to similar threats to the common dolphin, including entanglement in fishing gear, pollution, collisions with vessels, decrease in available prey and habitat degradation. In some areas, particularly in Japan, the striped dolphin is subject to hunting. In the 1990's, over 1000 dolphins died in the Mediterranean Sea from a disease, morbillivirus, which could have been triggered by pollution and lack of available prey.

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