Spinner Dolphin

Genus: Stenella
Species: longirostris

Snowshoe Hare in the snow

Spinner dolphins are the acrobats of the ocean. They love to jump, flip and twist above the surface of the water. Spinner dolphins earned their name by their ability to spin multiple times in one jump!  Scientists believe that they spin for several reasons including communication, removing parasites and just simply for the fun of it!

Description: Spinner dolphins are about 6 ½ feet long with a long, thin snout. They have white bellies and dark gray backs.  

Diet: Spinner dolphins are carnivores. They eat fish and squid. At night, spinner dolphins travel to deeper water to eat. In the morning, they move back to shallow water to rest, play and watch for predators such as sharks. 

Behavior: Spinner dolphins travel in groups called "schools", which can be very large, sometimes with hundreds of dolphins together. Spinner dolphins don’t mind traveling and feeding with other species, including humpback whales, tunas and other dolphins.

Dolphins communicate with one another through echolocation. They have special hearing that allows them to utilize sounds to determine the size, movement and position of objects.  Dolphins will slap the surface of water to communicate with other dolphins that there is food, danger or that the school is moving somewhere new. 

Range:  Spinner dolphins live in warm ocean waters around the world. There are different populations, including one near Thailand, along the Pacific Ocean coast of Central America and around the Hawaiian Islands.  The Hawaii population tends to spend more time near the shore than other spinner dolphins and are more social with people and boats.

  • Fun Fact
    Tuna fishing is one of the biggest threats to spinner dolphins. As the dolphins swim with tuna, they get trapped in fishing nets. Many tuna companies now use dolphin-safe fishing methods that release dolphins if they get caught in nets.

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