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Bottle-nosed dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)—Courtesy of the Miami Seaquarium
One of a large group of small, gregarious, streamlined whales or one of two species of oceanic sport and food fishes. Mammalian dolphins are small toothed whales, usually with a well-defined, beaklike snout. (They are sometimes called porpoises, but that name is properly reserved for a blunt-snouted whale family.) The common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and the bottlenose dolphin, both of the family Delphinidae, are found widely in warm temperate seas, though some inhabit tropical rivers. Most of the 32 delphinid species are marine; gray, blackish or brown above and pale below; and about 3–13 ft (1–4 m) long. River dolphins (family Platanistidae; five species) live mainly in fresh water in South America and Asia. One of the two fish species, Coryphaena hippuras (family Coryphaenidae), also called mahimahi and dorado, is a popular fish of tropical and temperate waters worldwide. The pompano dolphin (C. equiselis) is similar. See alsokiller whale.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on dolphin, visit Britannica.com.