Northern Right Whale Dolphin

(Lissodelphis borealis)



  • to a maximum of 3 m


  • mostly black, with white on the belly and the tip of the beak

Dorsal fin

  • no dorsal fin (the most distinctive feature of this dolphin)


  • small and bushy

Surface behaviour

  • when moving quickly, porpoising is very common, can reach speeds of 30km/hr
  • when moving slowly, usually only expose head and create little surface disturbance
  • shy, tend to avoid boats (unless travelling with other dolphin species)

Group size / social behaviour

  • extremely social, usually in large groups of 200 – 2000 animals (average in BC is 40)
  • can be seen associating with Pacific white-sided dolphins

Other characteristics

  • has relatively small pectoral fins that are held very close to the body, giving the appearance that it has no fins at all.
  • body is very sleek and streamlined

Can be confused with

  • due to its lack of dorsal fin and black coloration, the northern right whale dolphin should not be confused with any other species.


C. McMillan