Friends of the ancient Romans and Greeks and immortalized by Aristotle, common dolphins were sometimes caught by Mediterranean fishermen, who nicked their tails and released them. According to Aristotle, the nicks allowed the fishermen to identify individuals if they were caught again.

The fishermen might have had more luck identifying the dolphins by nicking their dorsal fins rather than their tails. One thing, though, is clear: the Greeks felt a decided affection for dolphins and regarded their appearance as a good omen.

In many ways, the common dolphin - with its classic slender, streamlined silhouette and long black beak - is the model dolphin. Found throughout the world ocean, members of this species are fast, active swimmers and enthusiastic jumpers and bow-riders, ever eager to practise typical dolphin behaviour. Finally, they are highly social, travelling in herds of dozens to hundreds or more. On the feeding banks, the commondolphin can be seen with Pacific white-sided dolphins in the Pacific and with many other species of dolphins in the Atlantic. As wide-ranging as this dolphin is, however, certain populations are threatened. Many are killed annually when they are accidentally netted by fishermen.

Delphinus delphis
Size: 1.7 to 2.4 m, 75 to 85 kg. Males slightly larger than females
Calves at birth: 79 to 90 cm
Teeth: 40 to 55, sometimes up to 58, small sharp-pointed teeth on each side of upper and lower jaws
Food: Fish (various cod, hake and pilchards) and squid
Habitat: Mainly offshore waters
Range: Tropical, subtropical and warm temperate world ocean, including Mediterranean, Red and Black seas and Persian Gulf
Status: Population unknown. Declines noted in some areas, but common in most parts of its range

Lost? Click here for the main index page.