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Dall’s Porpoises: Swift Swimmers of the North Pacific
August 11, 2023

Dall’s Porpoises: Swift Swimmers of the North Pacific

Prince of Whales

Dall’s porpoises stand out as captivating creatures of the Salish Sea, boasting distinctive features and behaviors that set them apart from their cetacean counterparts. From their physical attributes to their habitat and behaviors, let’s dive into the world of Dall’s porpoises to uncover the secrets of these enigmatic marine mammals.

Distinctive Physical Traits

Dall’s porpoises possess a set of unique physical characteristics that distinguish them from other porpoises and cetacean species sharing their habitat. Sporting a robust and broad physique, these porpoises flaunt a relatively small head, setting them apart with their lack of a well-defined beak. Positioned at the front of their bodies are their flippers, which, combined with their mid-body triangular dorsal fin, complete their striking appearance. This unique coloration occasionally leads to cases of mistaken identity, with these porpoises being confused with baby killer whales. However, their triangular dorsal fins and the absence of eye patches or saddle patches set them apart from their larger cousins.


One of the most captivating features of Dall’s porpoises is their intricate colouration. While their color patterns display notable variability, these creatures are predominantly black with patches of white to grey on their flank and belly. What adds to their allure is the frosted appearance gracing their dorsal fin and the trailing edge of their fluke. These colors makes Dall’s porpoises stand out in the water. Dall’s porpoises also hold the title of being the largest porpoise species, with adult lengths reaching an impressive 7.5 feet (2.3 meters).

Dall’s in the Salish Sea

These intriguing porpoises are commonly found along the U.S. West Coast, ranging from the shores of California to the Bering Sea in Alaska. Their swift swimming capabilities, allowing them to reach speeds of up to 34 miles per hour in short bursts, make them the fastest among small cetaceans. The name “Dall’s porpoise” pays homage to W.H. Dall, the American naturalist credited with collecting the very first specimen of this species.

Dall’s porpoises hold not only aesthetic allure but also ecological significance. They contribute to the vibrant tapestry of marine life in the Pacific, showcasing the region’s incredible biodiversity. We’re pleased to see them in the Salish Sea, and look forward to showing them to you!

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