Dolphin vs. Porpoise

Dolphin vs. Porpoise

Dolphin and porpoise are types of marine mammals that belong to the group of toothed whales. Despite similar morphology, they are not members of the same family. Dolphins are part of dolphin family, while porpoises belong to the porpoise family. There are 32 species of dolphin and 6 species porpoise that can be found in the oceans around the world. Both dolphins and porpoises are very intelligent creatures that use echo-location to find food, avoid predators and safely navigate through the water. Dolphins and porpoises give birth in the ocean and take care of their babies until they become ready to fend for themselves. Dolphins and porpoises eat fish and represent important indicators of the pollution of the water (they cannot be found in dirty, polluted waters). Although very similar at the first glance, dolphins and porpoises differ in:

Size and Shape of the Body

Dolphins and porpoises have similar color of the skin, but they can be easily distinguished by the size and shape of the body. Porpoises are smaller and have more compact body than dolphins. They can reach up to 7 feet in length. Dolphins are larger and have longer, more slender body that can reach around 10 feet in length.


Dolphins have beak-like, pointed nose and large mouth filled with cone-shaped teeth. Porpoises have short, blunt snout and small mouth filled with spade-shaped teeth.

Dorsal Fin

Dolphins have hooked (wave-like) dorsal fin, while porpoises have triangular dorsal fin which resembles a dorsal fin of sharks.

Life Style

Dolphins live in large groups (pods) made of dozen of animals. Unlike them, porpoises usually live in small groups of 2 to 4 animals.


Dolphins are talkative creatures. They produce loud whistles and clicks for communication. Unlike them, porpoises produce clicks of high frequency that human ear cannot detect. "Silent" communication ensures protection against killer whales, natural enemies of porpoises.

Acrobatics Outside the Water and Friendly/Shy Nature

Dolphins like to leap out of the water and perform various acrobatics in the air. Porpoises approach surface of the water only to breathe air. They rarely leap out of the water completely. Dolphins are very playful, friendly and curious by nature. Unlike porpoises, they are not afraid of humans and they like to swim alongside the boats. Thanks to their friendly nature and ability to learn to perform various tricks (in and outside the water), dolphins are often kept in the captivity to entertain people in the marine shows.


Porpoises have much shorter lifespan compared to dolphins. They can survive 15 to 20 years in the wild, while dolphins can survive more than 50 years.

Related Links:
Difference between Words
Science Related Words Difference and Comparison
Porpoise vs. Dolphin
Porpoise Facts
Science Related Words Difference and Comparison
Amazon river dolphin Facts
Difference Between Words
Animal Facts for Kids