Pantropical spotted dolphin

The pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata) is a species of dolphin found in all the world's temperate and tropical oceans. The species was beginning to come under threat due to the killing of millions of individuals in tuna purse seines. In the 1980s, the rise of "dolphin-friendly" tuna capture methods saved millions of the species in the eastern Pacific Ocean and it is now one of the most abundant dolphin species in the world.

The pantropical spotted dolphin varies significantly in size and colouration throughout its range. The most significant division is between coastal and pelagicvarieties. The coastal form is larger and more spotted. (These two forms have been divided into subspecies only in eastern Pacific populations).

Spots are key defining characteristics in adults, though immature individuals are generally uniformly coloured and susceptible to confusion with the bottlenose dolphin. Populations around the Gulf of Mexico may be relatively spot-free even in adulthood. In the Atlantic, confusion is possible with the Atlantic spotted dolphin.

Pantropical spotted dolphin
  • Size

    Birth length is 80–90 cm. Adults are about 2.5 m long and weigh 120 kg.

  • Feeding

    In the eastern Pacific, the dolphin is often found swimming with yellowfin tuna. However, they do not feed on that fish. In fact, the two species have similar diets of small epipelagic fish. In other areas, the species may also feed on squid and crustaceans.

  • Life History

    Sexual maturity is reached at 10 years in females and 12 years in males. The average lifespan is around 40 years.

  • Behavior

    The pantropical spotted dolphin is very active and is prone to making large, splashy leaps from the sea. It is a common breacher and will often clear the water for a second or more.