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© Ingrid N. Visser

Southern right whale dolphin

Lissodelphis peronii

These beautifully marked dolphins share a distinctive common feature with their northern cousins in having no dorsal fin.

This is one of the least well-known species of dolphin, in part due to its preference for deep, oceanic waters and its distribution throughout the cool temperate sub-Antarctic waters of the southern hemisphere.

Other names: Mealy-mouthed porpoise

Right whale dolphin illustration
Male Female Calf
Maximum length 3.0m 3.0m 1.0m
Maximum weight 116kg Unknown Unknown

IUCN conservation status: Least Concern

What do southern right whale dolphins look like?

Pretty cool. They have a streamlined, slender body with no dorsal fin (which makes them easy to identify) and their colouration is ‘two-tone’ with black on the upper body from just in front of the blowhole all the way down to the flukes and white on the lower. They also have a short, well-defined beak, gently sloping forehead, and small, pointed flippers – all of which are white. Calves are greyish brown or cream and develop the mature colouration with age. All black individuals have been documented as have hybrids with dusky dolphins.

What’s life like for a southern right whale dolphin?

Southern right whale dolphins generally travel in pods of less than 100 animals but may be seen in super podsherds of more than 1,000 individuals. They are energetic swimmers and can be seen porpoising at high speeds, resembling a herd of penguins. They may bow-ride, and can be seen breaching, lobtailing, belly-flopping, and side-slapping.

What do southern right whale dolphins eat?

Southern right whale dolphins feed on a variety of fish species and squid and are often seen associating with dusky and hourglass dolphins, and pilot whales.

Where do southern right whale dolphins live?

Southern right whale dolphins are found in a circumpolar band in the cool temperate waters of the southern hemisphere, north of the Antarctic Convergence (a curve around the Antarctic peninsula where cold, northward-flowing Antarctic waters meet the relatively warmer waters of the subantarctic). They prefer deeper, oceanic waters and for the most part are found in international waters of the Southern Ocean.

Distribution map

Southern right whale dolphin distribution map

Southern right whale dolphins need your help

The main threats...

  • Stop Hunting – southern right whale dolphins are targeted for their meat in Chile and Peru both for human consumption, and bait in the crab fisheries.

  • Prevent deaths in nets – southern right whale dolphins are at risk from bycatch fisheries including the Chilean swordfish driftnet fishery.

  • Healthy Seas – climate change is a growing threat facing southern right whale dolphins throughout their range because warming seas could bring reduced available habitat and range shifts of many species, as well as changes in prey abundance and distribution.

You can help save southern right whale dolphins...

By supporting WDC, you can help southern right whale dolphins to live safe and free. Together, we can:

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Bottlenose dolphin at surface


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Humpback whale. Photo: Vanessa Mignon


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