Endangered Oceanic Species      
Dolphins, Whales & Porpoises

Cetacea   Fish   Manatees & Dugongs   Polar Bears   Seahorses   Sea Birds   Sea Turtles   Seals   Sharks





Dolphins,  Porpoises and Whales are included in the Order Cetacea. They are mammals fully adapted to marine life and are divided into two suborders, Mysticet (baleen whales: including blue, humpback, gray, bowhead, minke and right whales) and Odontoceti (toothed whales: including killer whales or orcas, beluga whales, narwhales, sperm whales, dolphins and porpoises). There are 81 known species, 12 of which are on the Endangered Species list (see thumbnailed images above). Cetaceans are relatively large animals, characterized by fusiform, streamlined bodies that glide easily through the water. They are nearly hairless and are insulated from cold water by a thick layer of blubber.

Dolphins and Porpoises belong to the families Delphinidae and Phocoenidae, with the dolphins the  largest and most diverse family, one that includes 26 species. They possess a distinct beak and most species of dolphins are larger than porpoises. Porpoises belong to a rather small family which consists of only six species. They have no distinct beak and their foreheads slope uniformly to the tip of their snout. Both types of cetaceans are carnivores, and their sleek streamlined shapes are perfectly adapted to high speeds in the ocean. Bursts of up to 25 miles per hour have been recorded. Dolphins and porpoises are able to achieve such high speeds  by leaping from the water in a series of dives and spending as little time as possible under the water, a technique known as "running".

The life cycle of dolphins and porpoises is similar to that of other cetaceans, and they bear their young alive. Nursing lasts between one and a half to two years,  and the mother will remain with her calf for a period between three and eight years. Most species tend to bear one calf every other year,  and  dolphins and porpoises have an average life expectancy of around thirty years.

Dolphin and porpoise brains are about the same size as humans, and they possess an amazing ability to learn and imitate. Much has been written about their intelligence and the consensus in the scientific community is that have a level of intelligence compare to humans. In hunting for prey, dolphins and porpoises  use their developed sense of hearing in a very sophisticated way known as echolocation, a process whereby they  emit a steady series of rapid "clicks" through their blowholes. These outgoing clicks bounce off objects,  similar to radar,  and a portion of the signal is reflected back to the dolphin for analysis. Through this process, they are able to determine the distance to a school of fish or other prey by measuring the time between emitting and returning clicks. This allows these amazing animals to hunt prey over great ranges in which visibility is limited.  Dolphins feed mainly on schools of prey and as a result most species have developed  cooperative hunting practices which are much more efficient than hunting alone.

Another phenomena associated with many whales, especially the Blue Whale and the Humpback Whale, are the haunting songs they sing. Researchers are not sure why whales sing, although it is thought their singing is associated with breeding, and keeping in contact with each other over vast ocean distances.

Whales are the largest animals that have ever lived on earth, including the dinosaurs. The largest is the blue whale, which can grow to almost 100 feet in length, the height of a 9-story building. These enormous animals eat about 4 tons of tiny krill each day, obtained by filter feeding through their baleen. The smallest is the dwarf sperm whale which grows only to just over 8 feet long.

Whales exhibit a number of unusual and characteristic behaviors -breaching, spyhopping, lobtailing and logging. Breaching is jumping high out of the water and then slapping the water as they reenter. Occasionally they twirl around while doing this spectacular move. In spyhopping the whale pokes its head out of the water and turns around, perhaps to look. Some whales also stick their tails out of the water, swing it around and then slap the water's surface with it. This is known as lobtailing. It may be done as a warming to the rest of the whale group, or pod, as a warming. Logging is resting on the surface of the water, with the tail hanging beneath. While floating motionless like this, part of the whale's head, dorsal fin and back are exposed.

Cetaceans exhibit very strong social ties, with the strongest being between the mother and calf. A social group of whales is referred to as a pod. Mysticet (baleen whales) travel alone or in small pods, and Odontoceti (toothed whales, which include dolphins and porpoises) travel in large, frequently stable pods. These toothed whales also hunt their prey in groups, migrate together and share care of the young.

The links below will take you to some great websites about cetaceans.
The best sites to start for general information are marked with a star .
If you have a site that you think should be listed,
please email me.

Official, Scientific & Governmental Sites
Endangered Species Organizations
Cetacea Conservation Groups
Other Countries
Cetacea Species
Cetacea Observation & Eco-Tours
Commercial & Research Facilities
Personal Websites

Mass Extinction of Species


The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums
The Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums is an international association representing marine life parks, aquariums, zoos, research facilities, and professional organizations dedicated to the highest standards of care for marine mammals and to their conservation in the wild through public education, scientific study, and wildlife presentations.

Discovering Whales
General information website with pages on different whale species.

Marine Mammal Commission
The Marine Mammal Commission is an independent agency of the U.S. Government, established under Title II of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It was created to provide independent oversight of the marine mammal conservation policies and programs being carried out by the federal regulatory agencies.

National Marine Mammal Laboratory: Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises
General information on cetaceans

NOAA's Office of Protected Species: Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises
General information

WDCS Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
WDCS, established in 1987, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society is the world's most active charity dedicated to the conservation and welfare of all whales, dolphins and porpoises.

Welcome To The Watery World Of Whales
General information

Whale Center of New England
Their mission is to contribute to the conservation and protection of marine mammals and their habitats.

Wheelock College interactive educational website
that focuses on whales and marine research.

Whales Online
Whales-online is an information site dedicated to the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises in the Southern Hemisphere.

Wild Animal Watch: Dolphins
Scholastic website for educators on dolphins


ICUN World Conservation Union
The World Conservation Union is the world’s largest and most important conservation network. The Union brings together 82 States, 111 government agencies, more than 800 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and some 10,000 scientists and experts from 181 countries in a unique worldwide partnership. The Union’s mission is to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature and to ensure that any use of natural resources is equitable and ecologically sustainable.

United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre
The United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) is the biodiversity assessment and policy implementation arm of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the world's foremost intergovernmental environmental organization.

US Fish & Wildlife Webpages on Endangered Species
The American endangered species list maintained by the US Fish & Wildlife Service

Word Conservation Union ICUN Red List of Endangered Species

IUCN - The World Conservation Union, through its Species Survival Commission (SSC) has for four decades been assessing the conservation status of species, subspecies, varieties and even selected subpopulations on a global scale in order to highlight species threatened with extinction, and therefore promote their conservation.

Cetacea Conservation Groups

ANON -Act Now For Ocean Natives
Dedicated to protecting whales and other cetacea in our oceans.

American Cetacean Society
The ACS protects whales, dolphins, porpoises and their habitats through public education , research grants and conservation actions. Founded in 1987, the American Cetacean Society is the oldest whale conservation group in the world.

Cetacean Society International
CSI is an all volunteer, non-profit conservation, education, and research organization based in the USA, with volunteer representatives in 26 countries around the world. The goal of the Cetacean Society International is to achieve on a global basis the "optimum utilization of cetacean resources"  through benign utilization and the elimination of all killing and captive display of whales, dolphins, and porpoises.

Save The Whales
Save The Whales, founded in 1977, is dedicated to educating children and adults about marine mammals, their environment and their preservation.

Surfers For Cetaceans
Surfers For Cetaceans is a call to surfers everywhere in the world to take action on behalf of the whales and dolphins of the world, of Mother Ocean.

The Oceania Project: Caring For Whales, Dolphins & The Oceans
The Oceania Project, established in 1988, is a not-for-profit, research and education organization dedicated to raising awareness about Cetacea and the ocean environment.

The Original Dolphin Project
Founded on Earth Day 1970, for over 30 years The Dolphin Project has worked to stop the capture and confinement of dolphins worldwide.

Other Countries

A project of the Vancouver Aquarium's Marine Science Center. Focus on British Columbian whales.

IRELAND  Irish Dolphins.com
Irish Dolphins.com is dedicated to giving accurate information about 'friendly' or sociable wild dolphins (and whales) around the coastal waters of Ireland.

Cetacea Species

Seaworld website that focuses on Bottlenose dolphins.

Humpback whales

Pink River Dolphin

Personal journal website about the Amazon River pink dolphins

Cetacea Observation Eco-Tours

Aquatic Adventures
Worldwide expeditions for swimming with whales and dolphins

Whale Watch.com
Commercial whale watching company out of  Rhode Island. General information and links, excellent resource site for whale watching.

Whale Watching Web
Links to whale watching websites all over the world.  A great whale watching site.

Commercial & Research Facilities

Dolphins Plus
Dolphins Plus is a dolphin research and education facility in Key Largo, Florida. Dolphins Plus houses 14 Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins and 2 California Sea Lions.

Dolphin Research Center
The Dolphin Research Center, located in the Florida Keys, is not-for-profit research and facility, home to Atlantic Bottlenose dolphins and California sea lions.


Aqua Thought Foundation
Private research site dedicated to the exploration of human-dolphin interaction.

Charlotte, The Vermont Whale
Interesting website dealing with the bones of a whale found in a Vermont.

Dolphins and Man......Equals?
Online article by Regina Blackstock that examines dolphin intelligence.

Earthtrust Hawaii's Marine Wildlife: Dolphins
Educational website geared for HS and MS students.

Marine Mammal Stranding Center
Dedicated to the rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine mammals and sea turtles.

NOAA's Office of Protected Species: Protect Dolphins Campaign
NOAA Fisheries website  -general information about dolphin protection for general public.

Songs of the Whale
Some excellent sound recordings

Whale Songs
Educational resource site with focus on whale songs.

Personal Websites

David's Whale & Dolphin Watch
Personal website with very large collection of whale and dolphin photographs>

William A. Levinson's Marine Mammals: Dolphins and Whales
General information


American Museum of Natural History Statement  

The IUCN Red List of Endangered Species

Professor David  Ulansey's Website -Mass Extinction Underway