Cetacean Fact Files


Whales, dolphins and porpoises belong to the Order Cetacea. The following taxonomic reference provides the most complete and up-to-date classification in the current taxonomy. The list provides common vernacular names, scientific names and the names of sub-species, where these have been described. A number of the sub-species listed below have not yet been named, and in such cases these are simply referred to herein as subsp. The common names assigned for these animals are typically centred around the geographic distribution of the species'.

The links below are directed to a detailed fact file for those species commonly recorded in the CRRU Moray Firth study area.

Order CETACEA (90 species)
Suborder MYSTICETI: The baleen (moustached) whales (15 species)

Baleen whales are filter feeders which sieve food from the seawater with baleen (hair-fringed plates made from keratin). The minke whale is the most common of the baleen whales in the Moray Firth, although other mysticete species such as fin, sei and humpback whales are also intermittently recorded in these waters.

Family Balaenidae: Right whales

Eubalaena glacialis

Northern right whale

Eubalaena australis

Southern right whale

Eubalaena japonica

North Pacific right whale

Balaena mysticetus

Bowhead whale

Family Neobalaenidae: Pygmy right whale

Caperea marginata

Pygmy right whale

Family Eschrichtiidae: Gray whale

Eschrichtius robustus

Gray whale

Family Balaenopteridae: Rorqual whales (9 species)

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

Minke whale

B. a. acutorostrata Atlantic minke Whale

B. a. scammoni North Pacific minke Whale

B. a. subsp. Dwarf minke Whale

Balaenoptera bonarensis

Antarctic minke whale

Balaenoptera edeni

Eden's whale

Balaenoptera brydei

Bryde's whale

Balaenoptera ricei

Rice's whale

Balaenoptera borealis

Sei whale

B. b. borealis Northern sei whale

B. b. schlegllii Southern sei whale

Balaenoptera physalis

Fin whale

B. p. physalus Northern fin whale

B.p. quoyi Southern fin whale

Balaenoptera musculus

Blue whale

B. m. musculus Northern blue whale

B. m. indica Indian Ocean blue whale

B. m. brevicauda Pygmy blue whale

B. m. intermedia Southern blue whale

Megatera novaengliae

Humpback whale

Suborder ODONTOCETI: The toothed whales (75 species)

This group contains the beaked whales (Ziphiidae), freshwater river dolphins, the beluga and narwhal (Monodontidae), the delphinids (Delphinidae), porpoises (Phocoenidae) and the sperm and pygmy sperm whales (Physeteridae and Kogiidae). Of the beaked whales, only the Northern bottlenose, Sowerby's beaked whale and the Cuvier's beaked whale have been recorded in the Moray Firth to date. Sperm whales further sporadically occur in this area of the North Sea, but the individuals entering this shallow Scottish firth usually become stranded.

Family Physeteridae: Sperm whale

Physeter macrocephalus

Sperm whale

Family Kogiidae: Pygmy sperm whales

Kogia breviceps

Pygmy sperm whale

Kogia simia

Dwarf sperm whale

Family Ziphiidae: Beaked whales (21 species)

Ziphius cavirostris

Cuvier's beaked whale

Berardius arnuxii

Arnoux's beaked whale

Berardius bairdii

North Pacific bottlenose whale

Tasmacetus shepherdi

Tasman beaked whale

Subfamily Hyperoodontidae

Indopacetus pacificus

Indo-Pacific beaked whale

Hyperoodon ampullatus

Northern bottlenose whale

Hyperoodon planifrons

Southern bottlenose whale

Mesoplodon hectori

Hector's beaked whale

Mesoplodon mirus

True's beaked whale

Mesoplodon europaeus

Gervais' beaked whale

Mesoplodon bidens

Sowerby's beaked whale

Mesoplodon grayi

Gray's beaked whale

Mesoplodon peruvianus

Pygmy beaked whale

Mesoplodon bowdoini

Andrew's beaked whale

Mesoplodon bahamondi

Bahamonde's beaked whale

Mesoplodon carlhubbsi

Hubb's beaked whale

Mesoplodon gingkgodens

Ginko-toothed beaked whale

Mesoplodon stejnegeri

Stejneger's beaked whale

Mesoplodon layardii

Layard's beaked whale

Mesoplodon densirostris

Blainville's beaked whale

Mesoplodon eueu

Ramari's beaked whale

Family Platanistidae: Indian river-dolphin

Platanista gangetica

Indian river-dolphin

P. g. minor Indus river-dolphin

P. g. gangetica Ganges river-dolphin

Family Iniidae: Amazon river-dolphin

Inia geoffrensis

Amazon river-dolphin

I. g. humboldtiana Orinoco river-dolphin

I. g. geoffrensis Amazon river-dolphin

I. g. boliviensis Rio Madeira river-dolphin

Inia araguaiaensis

Araguaian river dolphin

Family Lipotidae: Chinese river-dolphin

Lipotes vexillifer

Yangtse river-dolphin

Family Pontoporiidae: La Plata dolphin

Pontoporia blainvillei

La Plata dolphin

Family Monodontidae: Beluga and narwhal

Monodon monocerus


Delphinapterus leucas


Family Delphinidae: Dolphins (38 species)

Cephalorhynchus commersonii

Commerson's dolphin

Cephalorhynchus eutropia

Chilean dolphin

Cephalorhynchus heavisidii

Heaviside's dolphin

Cephalorhynchus hectori

Hector's dolphin

Stena bredanensis

Rough-toothed dolphin

Sousa teuszi

Atlantic Humpback dolphin

Sousa plumbea

Indian humpback dolphin

Sousa chinensis

Pacific humpback dolphin

Sotalia fluviatilis


S. f. guianensis Atlantic coast Tucuxi

S. f. fluviatilis Amazon river tucuxi

Tursiops truncatus

Bottlenose dolphin

Tursiops truncatus nuuanu

Eastern Tropical Pacific bottlenose dolphin

Tursiops aduncus

Indian Ocean bottlenose dolphin

Stenella attenuata

Pantropical spotted dolphin

S. a. graffmani Eastern Pacific coastal spotted Dolphin

S. a. subsp. Hawaiian spotted dolphin

S. a. subsp. Eastern Pacific offshore spotted dolphin

Stenella frontalis

Atlantic spotted dolphin

Stenella longirostris

Spinner dolphin

S. l. longirostris Cosmopolitan spinner dolphin

S. l. orientalis Tropical Pacific spinner dolphin

S. l. centroamericana Central American spinner dolphin

Stenella clymene

Clymene dolphin

Stenella coeruleoalba

Striped dolphin

Delphinus delphis

Common dolphin

Delphinus capensis

Long-beaked common dolphin

Delphinus tropicalis

Arabian common dolphin

Lagenodelphis hosei

Fraser's dolphin

Lagenorhynchus albirostris

White-beaked dolphin

Lagenorhynchus acutus

Atlantic white-sided dolphin

Lagenorhynchus obliquidens

Pacific whitesided dolphin

Lagenorhynchus obscurus

Dusky dolphin

L. o. fitzroyi South American dusky Dolphin

L. o. obscurus South African dusky Dolphin

L. o. subsp. New Zealand dusky dolphin

Lagenorhynchus australis

Blackchinned dolphin

Lagenorhynchus cruciger

Hourglass dolphin

Lissodelphis borealis

Northern right-whale dolphin

Lissodelphis peronii

Southern right-whale dolphin

Grampus griseus

Risso's dolphin

Peponocephala electra

Melonheaded whale

Feresa attenuata

Pygmy killer whale

Pseudorca crassidens

False killer whale

Orcinus orca

Killer whale

Globicephala melas

Long-finned pilot whale

Globicephala macrorhyncus

Short-finned pilot whale

Orcaella brevirostris

Irrawaddy dolphin

Orcaella heinsohni

Australian snubfin dolphin

Family Phocoenidae. Porpoises (6 species)

Neophocaena phocaenoides

Finless porpoise

N. p. phocaenoides Indo-Pacific finless porpoise

N. p. sunameri Chinese finless porpoise

N. p. asiaorientalis Yangtse finless porpoise

Phocoena phocoena

Harbour porpoise

P. p. phocoena North Atlantic harbour Porpoise

P. p. subsp. Western North Pacific harbour Porpoise

P. p. vomerina Eastern North Pacific harbour Porpoise

Phocoena sinus

Golfa de California porpoise or Vaquita

Austrophocaena dioptrica

Spectacled porpoise

Phocoena spinipinnis

Black porpoise or Burmeister's porpoise

Phocoenoides dalli

Dall's porpoise

P. d. dalli North Pacific Dall's porpoise

P. d. truei West Pacific Dall's porpoise

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