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Young spotted dolphin © Vanessa Mignon

Where do dolphins live?

Dolphins live in the world’s seas and oceans and in some rivers too. Some dolphin species prefer to live in coastal areas, others like shallow water which are located further out to sea. Finally, there are some species that travel the high seas far from land.

Orcas and long-finned pilot whales can be found in both the Arctic and Antarctic. Their large size means that they have more protection against the harsh cold of the freezing seas. Several other species may also be encountered in colder waters, such as white-beaked dolphins (arctic) and hourglass dolphins (antarctic), but most dolphins prefer tropical and temperate waters as they are warm-blooded mammals and so it is easier for them to regulate their body temperature in these environments. Spinner dolphins and spotted dolphins are two such species that may be encountered in warm waters.

The unusual looking northern and southern right whale dolphins are examples of species that prefer to inhabit offshore waters.

Can dolphins live in fresh water?

River dolphins such as the Amazon River dolphin (boto) and the South Asian river dolphins only live in fresh water rivers and lakes. Some dolphin species have populations that live in fresh water, these include the tucuxi (or sotalia), Irrawaddy dolphin and finless porpoise.

Other species, such as common bottlenose dolphins, may visit or inhabit estuaries of large rivers. Sometimes this results in them living close to cities. A population of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins live in the waters off Hong Kong while Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are resident in the waters of the Port River in Adelaide, Australia.

Amazing facts about whales and dolphins

Dive deeper into the world of whales and dolphins and learn more about their lives.

Humpback whale
Conran & Castillo 2_0715_Charlie Phillips
Orca - Fife at surface
Breaching North Atlantic right whale

Facts about whales

Amazing facts about whales, the largest mammals to live on Earth.

Facts about dolphins

From the orca to the tiny vaquita, learn more about these creatures.

Record breakers

Whales and dolphins hold some incredible records.

Brain power

Just how intelligent are whales and dolphins?

Help protect whales and dolphins and their homes

By adopting a whale or dolphin, by making a donation, or by fundraising for WDC, you can help us save these amazing creatures.

Orca - Rob Lott

Adopt

Adopt an orca and help us protect these amazing creatures.

Bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth

Donate

Your gifts help us take action to protect their homes.

Breaching North Atlantic right whale

Fundraise

Run, bake, walk, cycle… what could you do for orcas?