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Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus acutus)

Status | Taxonomy | Species Description | Habitat | Distribution |
Population Trends | Threats | Conservation Efforts | Regulatory Overview |
Key Documents | More Info


atlantic white sided dolphin - noaa nefsc, permit 775-1875
Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin

(Lagenorhynchus acutus)
Credit: NOAA NEFSC, under MMPA Permit #775-1875


MMPA - Atlantic white-sided dolphins, like all marine mammals, are protected under the MMPA
CITES Appendix II - throughout its range

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Cetacea
Family: Delphinidae
Genus: Lagenorhynchus
Species: acutus

The Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) is another species of white-sided dolphin.

Species Description

Atlantic white-sided dolphins have a robust body, short beak, and a distinct color pattern, including a bi-colored beak. Their back, fluke, flippers, dorsal fin, and top beak are black, while their belly and lower beak are white. Their sides are gray, with a white patch that begins below the dorsal fin and is flanked by a yellowish-tan streak that extends to the fluke, or tail. Atlantic white-sided dolphins can sometimes be confused with the white-beaked dolphin, which shares a similar distribution pattern.

Males reach lengths of about 9 ft (3 m) and females grow to about 8 ft (2.5 m). The average adult Atlantic white-sided dolphin weighs about 400-500 lbs (180-225 kg). They have a lifespan of approximately 25 years.

Atlantic white-sided dolphins are highly social and playful animals. They have been seen traveling in small groups of a few individuals and in large aggregations of up to 500 animals. They are commonly observed engaging in acrobatic activities, such as lobtailing and breaching.

Atlantic white-sided dolphins are capable of holding their breath for nearly 5 minutes. They dive to feed on prey, such as fish (e.g., mackerel, herring and hake), as well as squid and shrimp. They are often seen in association with long-finned pilot whales, humpback whales, and fin whales while feeding.

Females reach sexual maturity and begin breeding between 6 to 12 years of age, when they reach lengths of about 7 feet (2.1 m). The gestation period is 11 months and lactation occurs for 12-18 months. Females typically give birth to a single calf about every other year. Breeding season is from May to August, though most calves are born in June and July.

Atlantic white-sided dolphins are found only in temperate waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. They inhabit the oceanic waters of the continental shelf and slope.

atlantic white-sided dolphin range map
Atlantic White-sided Dolphin Range Map
(click for larger view PDF)

Atlantic white-sided dolphins are found in the western North Atlantic from 35°-80° N, from North Carolina to Greenland. This species exhibits seasonal movements, moving closer inshore and north in the summers and offshore and south in the winters.

Population Trends
In 2007, the estimated population size of Atlantic white-sided dolphins in the Western North Atlantic was about 63,000 animals. There is insufficient information to determine population trends.

A primary threat to white-sided dolphins is incidental capture and entanglement in fisheries, such as trawls, gillnets, and driftnets. Mass strandings of white-sided dolphins are common occurrences in the Northeast U.S. Athough the cause of stranding often is unknown; however, there are several documented strandings related to fishery interactions.

Conservation Efforts
Atlantic white-sided dolphins are classified as Low Risk-Least Concern under the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCNs) Red List.

In 2006, NMFS convened the Atlantic Trawl Gear Take Reduction Team to address the incidental bycatch of white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus), as well as long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas), short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus), and common dolphins (Delphinus delphis) in bottom and mid-water trawl fisheries in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Regulatory Overview
This species is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972, as amended.

Key Documents
(All documents are in PDF format.)

Title Federal Register Date
Atlantic Trawl Gear Take Reduction 71 FR 54273 09/11/2006
Stock Assessment Reports n/a various

More Information

Updated: December 23, 2014

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