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Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin Fact File

Leucopleurus acutus

Credit: Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Weight

180-250kg

(397-550lbs)

Length

3m

(9.75ft)

Lifespan

Wild 40 years

Captive 40 years

Diet

Carnivore

Fish, Shrimp

Conservation Status

IUCN

Least Concern

The Atlantic white-sided dolphin is a small dolphin species found in the Atlantic ocean along the coastlines of Europe and North America.

These highly social animals will move around in pods which may include up to a 1,000 members. Pods may also mix with those of other whale and dolphin species.

Pods may work together to hunt down schools of fish. Squid and shrimp may also be hunted by this species.

They are threatened through hunting and the effects of climate change.

Read on to learn more about these magnificent mammals.

Appearance

What does the Atlantic white-sided dolphin look like?

Their name is taken from the pale stripe running along their side. The back and sides are colored dark grey or black. On the underside of the body they are colored white or cream.

At the front of the head is the small, black-colored beak. Inside this beak are 30 to 40 pairs of teeth.

On the back is a single fin which has a sharp curve coming to a point at the top. On either side of the front half of the body is a fin. At the end of the body are two strong fins which are used to push them through the water.

An average Atlantic white-sided dolphin will measure 3m (9.75ft) long with a weight between 180 and 250kg (397-550lbs). Males are significantly larger than females.

Diet

What does the Atlantic white-sided dolphin eat?


Atlantic white-sided dolphins are carnivores. They will hunt for herring, shrimp and squid. This species will mostly target schooling fish which allows them to dive in to the shoal and catch individuals out of it.

Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin (Leucopleurus acutus)

Credit: Public Domain

Range

Where can you find the Atlantic white-sided dolphin?

As their name suggests this species is found in the Atlantic ocean. They can be found along the coastlines of North America and the European continent.

The species is occasionally sighted in the Baltic and Barent seas.

Habitat

What kind of environment does the Atlantic white-sided dolphin live in?

These animals make their home in the ocean. Their range primarily takes in areas of cold water. They are rarely found near the continental shelf. Atlantic white-sided dolphins are primarily seen in clear waters at the edge of the shelf where the sea floor plunges.

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Reproduction

How does the Atlantic white-sided dolphin produce its young?

Breeding takes place during spring and summer.

Females give birth to a single young following a 10 month gestation period. Calving tends to be concentrated during June and July.

Calves will nurse for an 18 month period. Between 3 and 5 years old they will leave their birth pod and join their own.


Sexual maturity is achieved at 12 years old. Females produce a calf once every two to three years.

Females live for a longer period than males on average.

Behavior

What does the Atlantic white-sided dolphin do with its day?

They are capable to diving to depths of up to 270m (900ft) deep but mostly average depths of 40m (130ft) below the surface.

As a mammal they must come to the surface to breathe once every 15-20 seconds.

These animals are highly social and spend their time in pods with up to six individuals. At times they mass together in groups which can grow to over 1,000 members.

Groups are often split with males travelling in one group and females with their calves travelling in their own group.

They have been seen in mixed pods (groups) with other species of whale such as humpback and pilot whales or other dolphins such as the common bottlenose.

These animals are highly vocal and communicate with one another by vocalizations or body language.

Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin (Leucopleurus acutus)

Credit: Cephas, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Predators and Threats

What is impacting the survival of the Atlantic white-sided dolphin?

Natural predators of the Atlantic white-sided dolphin include orcas and sharks.

These animals are considered to be in abundance across their range.

This species has been subject to hunting throughout parts of its range. Some of this hunting is for food. They may also be subject to bycatch as part of fishery operations.

Some populations are showing stress due to climate change and the effects of pollution.

They are often subject to mass strandings and these account for a large percentage of deaths in part of their range.

Quick facts

They may be called 'lags' which is short for Lagenorhynchus. This was the former name for the species genus but further study has given rise to their reclassification in to their own genus of which they are the only member.

Other alternative names include the Atlantic white-sided porpoise or springer.

Their species name acutus is taken from the Latin for 'sharp.'

References

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater.

Sea Watch Foundation. 2021. Atlantic White-sided Dolphin. [online] Available at: <https://www.seawatchfoundation.org.uk/atlantic-white-sided-dolphin/> [Accessed 14 December 2021].

Braulik, G. 2019. Lagenorhynchus acutusThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T11141A50361160. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-3.RLTS.T11141A50361160.en. Accessed on 14 December 2021.

National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. 2021. Sea Wonder: Atlantic White-sided Dolphin – National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. [online] Available at: <https://marinesanctuary.org/blog/sea-wonder-atlantic-white-sided-dolphin/> [Accessed 14 December 2021].

Kopack, H. 2000. "Lagenorhynchus acutus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 14, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Lagenorhynchus_acutus/

Marine Bio. 2021. Atlantic White-Sided Dolphin. [online] Available at: <https://www.marinebio.org/species/atlantic-white-sided-dolphins/lagenorhynchus-acutus/> [Accessed 14 December 2021].

Whale & Dolphin Conservation Australia. 2021. Atlantic white-sided dolphin – Whale & Dolphin Conservation Australia. [online] Available at: <https://au.whales.org/whales-dolphins/species-guide/atlantic-white-sided-dolphin/> [Accessed 14 December 2021].

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