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Northern Right Whale Dolphin - Lissodelphis borealis
Photo by Michael Richlen

Northern right whale dolphins are very streamlined and typically measure between 6-10 feet in length. They are black with white undersides and completely lack a dorsal fin. The genus name, Lissodelphis, is translated as 'smooth dolphin', referring to this absent fin. They are not as vocal as other dolphin species, but they are generally gregarious and school in several hundred to more than a thousand at a time. Individuals and small groups have even been known to travel with larger groups of other species.

Northern Right Whale Dolphin
(Lissodelphis borealis)

Temperate and sub-arctic waters across the entire North Pacific from Japan to the Gulf of Alaska and Baja California

Cool, deep temperate waters of the northern Pacific

Fish and squid


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

Quick Fact
Right whale dolphins got their common name from whalers who often mistook them from a distance for right whales because of their lack of dorsal fin, a trait shared with the right whales that the whalers were hunting.

Learn More
- Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology