Difference Between Dolphin and Porpoise

Dolphin vs Porpoise

It would be interesting to know that there are important animal groups relate closely with some well-known and popular species. Porpoise is one of the closest relatives of dolphins, apart from whales. Without knowing the differences between these two important marine mammals, many would find it difficult to identify who is who. This article intends to clear all those difficulties by discussing the difference between dolphin and porpoise.


Dolphins belong to the Family: Delphinidae, the largest group of marine mammals. Compared to other cetaceans, dolphins are a new group that originated only 10 million years ago. Presently, there are almost 40 species of dolphins distributed all over the oceans of the world, but mostly found in the shallow areas of the continental shelves. Generally, dolphins have a pointed snout with cone shaped sharp teeth facilitating for their carnivorous lifestyle. They have streamlined and fusiform bodies, which are long, up to 12 feet in average, and their appearance is sleeker. Their pectoral and dorsal fins control the direction of movement through the water column while tail fin provides power for motion. The shape of their dorsal fin is important to consider as its leading edge shapes like a curving wave towards the back. They live in large groups and highly talkative, and produce sounds that are audible for humans, as well. Dolphins live a long life up to 50 years, and they get along with humans more often. These human friendly natures of dolphins have taken them to be one of the most popular among all the animals.


Porpoises belong to the Family: Phocoenidae, and contain only six living species with some in freshwater. Scientists believe that these animals evolved before 23 million years ago according to fossil evidences. They have streamlined bodies, which are more compact and shorter compared to other cetaceans. Porpoises are the smallest among all the cetaceans, with an average body length around seven feet. Porpoises have a short and blunt snout, which is never strongly pointed. They are predators of fish and have flat and spade shaped teeth with sharp edges as in a knife. Their dorsal fin is triangular shaped as in a shark, and its leading edge is straight. Porpoises forage using echolocation, but their sounds are inaudible for humans. They do not get along with humans, and are shy regardless of whether captive or wild. Porpoises do not come out of the water usually, unless for breathing. However, they can live up to about 10 years in wild and sometimes 20 years in captivity.

What is the difference between Dolphin and Porpoise?

· Dolphins (forty species) have a higher diversity compared to porpoises (six species).

· Dolphins have a pointed snout, while it is almost blunt in porpoises.

· Both are carnivorous, but dolphins have cone shaped teeth while porpoises have spade shaped teeth.

· Porpoises have stout and more compact and short bodies, while dolphins have longer bodies.

· Dolphins average at 12 feet bodies while porpoises average at only seven feet bodies.

· The leading edge of the dorsal fin is shaped like a curving wave in dolphins, while it is straight in porpoises.

· Dolphins live in larger groups compared to porpoises.

· Sounds made in dolphins are audible for human ears while porpoise sounds are inaudible.

· Friendliness with humans is much higher in dolphins, while porpoises are shy towards many.

· Dolphins are blessed with a long life that reaches 50 years, while porpoises live about only 10 years.