Common dolphin

Natural History

Striking geometric patterns and yellowish side patches make this the most colorful dolphin. This coloring earned it other names, like "hourglass," "crisscross" and "saddleback" dolphin.

These dolphins are familiar companions to sailors of many seas. As fast-moving ships slice through the water, common dolphins surf alongside. Dolphins also use this hitchhiking trick with their own cousins: sometimes they ride on the waves of large whales.


At one time as many as 8,000 common dolphins per year died in the eastern Pacific, victims of the purse seine net fishery for tuna. New laws and new ways of fishing now spare the dolphins, but have caused other problems.

Cool Facts

Common dolphins travel in pods of up to 2,000 animals. 

This is the classic dolphin of Greek and Roman mythology. 

This dolphin often rides the bow wave of boats or larger whales.