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Spinner Dolphin - Stenella longirostris
Photo by James Watt

Spinner dolphins are named for their unique behavior of leaping high above the ocean surface while spinning. They are also known for having more regional variability in form and color pattern than any other whale or dolphin. Their basic color pattern consists of a dark dorsal cape, lighter gray sides, and a white/gray underside. They typically have a relatively flat melon and a long, well-defined, narrow beak. Hawaiian spinner dolphins exhibit a "fission-fusion society" where they fuse into large schools of hundreds as they move offshore at night to feed, and then split into smaller groups while resting and socializing during the day.

Spinner Dolphin
(Stenella longirostris)

Throughout the tropics and subtropics in a number of discrete geographical populations

Both inshore and offshore

Small midwater fish, squid, and shrimp


The status of this species is representative of the populations within the waters of this Sanctuary only, not global populations.

Quick Fact
A single leap of a spinner dolphin can reach as high as 10 feet and involve as many as 4 revolutions.

Learn More
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology
- Duke University