Cetacean Society International

Working for whales, dolphins and porpoises worldwide

CSI Photo Gallery

Southern Right Whale Dolphin

(Lissodelphis peronii)

There is one physical feature obviously missing on this dolphin; can you identify it? The Southern Right Whale Dolphin - and its counterpart the Northern Right Whale Dolphin - are the only dolphins without a dorsal fin. Although easy to identify by its striking black and white color pattern, sometimes they can be mistaken for penguins when swimming at speed, or confused with a fur seal or sea lion when swimming slowly. The Right Whale Dolphin was supposedly given its name by whalers, who noted it resembled the Right Whale, which also has no dorsal fin. Author Herman Melville named this dolphin the Mealy-mouthed Porpoise, describing its color this way: "The white comprises part of his head, and the whole of his mouth, which makes him look as if he had just escaped from a felonious visit to a meal-bag. A most mean and mealy aspect!" How many other cetaceans can you find that don't have dorsal fins? (Photo courtesy of Dr. Ingrid N. Visser)