Compare Dolphins & Porpoise

Dolphins and Porpoise are often used interchangeably as general terms for small toothed whales. These animals are found in every ocean of the world. Any dolphin or porpoise larger than 30 feet is technically called a whale. Killer whales, melon-headed whales, pilot whales, and false killer whales are all part of the dolphin family, but are called whales because of their size.

Dolphins and porpoises are carnivores, with most eating fishes and/or squids. Different habitats mean different diets; each type of dolphin and porpoise specializes in catching prey that lives in its specific ecosystem.

A dolphin is a relatively small cetacean, usually with a curved dorsal fin – the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans. Dolphins are generally about 6–12 feet long, and have melon-shaped heads with beaks. Their teeth are cone-shaped, and top and bottom teeth interlock. Dolphins move in large, more socially complex pods than porpoises and tend to be more acrobatic at the surface.

Porpoises have stocky bodies, blunt heads and small, spade-shaped teeth. They’re the smallest cetaceans at about four–seven feet in length.

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Six sub-families


Cone shaped teeth

Melon with pronounced beak

6-12 ft in length


All ocean waters


Number of Sub-Families?

Number of Species?




Body Shape?

Preferred Waters?


Two sub-families

Six species

Spade shaped teeth

Blunt head with no prominent beak

4-7 ft in length

Robust, chubby

Shallow and near shore, colder temperate waters