Scientific name

Phocoenoides dalli


Where does it get its name?

They are named for W.H. Dall, an American naturalist who collected the first specimen of this species.


Whale SENSE Region Found:

ALASKA


Protection status

Protected throughout its range


Where to watch:

They can be found in offshore, inshore, and nearshore oceanic waters. Dall’s porpoises occur throughout the coastal and pelagic waters of the North Pacific Ocean.


What to watch for:

Rooster-tail splashes: Being the fastest of the small cetaceans (reaching speeds of 34 miles per hour over short distances!), they will create V-shaped spray of water when zooming at the surface of the water. 

Dorsal fin: Has a distinctive pale white or grey patch at the tip of its dorsal fin and is leaning forward. The body thickens close to the tail.

Body: Their coloration is very dark gray or black with contrasting white markings on the dorsal fin and tail that distinguish Dall’s porpoises from other cetaceans. Relatively small, triangular head with little or no beak and a thick, robust body.

Size: Length: 7 – 8 feet, Weight: 290 – 490 pounds

Associations: Usually found in groups of up to 12, but sometimes larger

May be confused with:

  • Killer whales: Sometimes mistaken for baby killer whales, but unlike killer whales, their dorsal fins are triangle-shaped and they do not have eye patches or saddle patches.
  • Harbor porpoise: Looks similar to a Dall’s porpoise at a distance, but tends to be more elusive around vessels

Feeding

Dall’s porpoises will feed opportunistically, preying on a wide variety of fish, squid, octopus and occasionally crabs and shrimps. They will eat mostly small schooling fish such as anchovies, herring, and hake. Dall’s porpoise will primarily feed at night, when their prey migrates up toward the surface. 

Mating and Calving

The estimated age for sexual maturity in Dall’s porpoises is between 4 and 7 years. Pregnancy lasts about 10 to 12 months and they usually give birth between June and September. The calves are generally 3.3 feet long and are nursed by their mother for up to a year.

Photo: NOAA

Did you know?

  • Dall’s porpoises can dive up to 1,640 feet in search of prey
  • As rapid, social swimmers, Dall’s porpoises are sometimes attracted to fast moving vessels and can be seen bowriding beside ships.
  • Hybrids between Dall’s porpoises and harbor porpoises are also fairly common in the northeast Pacific but can also occur elsewhere.

Threats to Dall’s porpoise

Learn more about harbor porpoise