Measuring in at less than 6 ft. Commerson’s dolphin is small species of dolphin that can be found traveling in south america in and around coastal waters.
These dolphins are known for their very distinct color pattern and very social nature.
At times they can be seen leaping out of the water and performing various stunts as well as swimming up to boats in order to observe what’s going on.
This article will provide insights into the appearance, diet, social structure, habitat, breeding habits and potential threats that affect the lives of these wonderful marine mammals.
Physical Characteristics and Appearance
Commerson’s dolphin is one of the smallest known dolphins in existence today.
These dolphins are believed to reach an average length of 3 – 5 ft. long when fully matured.
Although records of their average weight remain unknown it is assumed that adults may have an average weight of around 50 – 100 lbs.
They have stocky bodies and a triangular dorsal fin where the back begins to taper down.
Commeson’s dolphins is distinguished by its white and black skin tone as the head, dorsal fin and flukes are black and most of the rest of the body is white.
They also have a black spot on their belly with the males being in the shape of a tear drop and the females being more circular in nature.
Diet and Hunting Methods
Due to their small stature these dolphins primarily inhibit coastal waters and consume prey that live in and around their coastal environment.
Night time hunting likely involves the use of echolocation to search for prey, coordinate hunting parties and navigate the ocean.
When searching for prey most hunting takes place near the sea bed and they hunt opportunistically for food .
Commerson’s dolphin is known to swim both right side up and upside down.
While the reason for this is unknown it is suggested that this may help them better locate food and keep a look out for potential predators as it increases the dolphins ability to visually scan the area.
Habitat and Migration
These dolphins have been found living off the southern coast of south america around the Falkland and south Georgia islands.
They are also known to inhibit South American waters around the Western Pacific and Southern Atlantic oceans in coastal waters as well as a group found in the Kerguelen Islands in the south Indian ocean.
Not much is known about the migration patterns of these dolphins.
They can be seen throughout the year, however some reporting suggests that dolphin pods in some areas are largest during heavy prey season when large abundances of food are available.
During the less abundant months the pods may be more dispersed as they spread out to search for sources of food.
Social Structure and Communication
These dolphin are very social marine mammals known to perform various acrobatic stunts such as leaps and flips.
They are also known to bow ride and swim upside down.
When traveling together Commerson’s dolphin can swim in groups of anywhere from 2 – 100 dolphins.
Communication consists of various high-pitched clicks and whistles that allow them to communicate a need or desire.
They communicate in such high frequencies that they can’t be heard by the human ear.
Breeding and Reproduction
The average gestation period (pregnancy period) for Commerson’s dolphin is 11 – 12 months.
After birth the mother cares for her child until it is able to hunt and survive on its own.
Nursing involves providing the baby dolphin with milk and protection.
Most children are waned off of milk after about 9 months.
After about a year these dolphins reach full size, however sexual maturity for Commerson’s dolphins is assumed to occur between the ages of 6 – 10.
While not much is known about their lifespan a healthy dolphin may have an average lifespan of 15 – 25 years.
Commerson’s dolphin has been known to face threats from fishermen and poachers looking to use their meat for crab bait.
These dolphins are also known to have been hunted for sport.
Some dolphins that have been studied have been found to contain low levels of pollution suggesting that contamination may also play a role in the potential life threatening causes these dolphins face.
Tourism and bycatch are also listed as potential threats since boat strikes and fishing nets can interfere with their natural habitat.
A number of Commerson’s dolphins have been held in captivity and appear to do relatively well adjusting to their habitat.
In fact several dolphins are known to perform at marine parks and can be seen leaping and flipping out of the water with instructions from their trainers.