Volunteer with Spinner Dolphins

Facts about Spinner Dolphins

These ocean acrobats get their name from their ability to spin their bodies up to four times during a single leap!

Spinner Dolphins Photo Credit:Flickr, Giles Douglas

Spinner Dolphins. Photo credit: Giles Douglas, Flickr

Fast Facts
Scientific name:
Stenella longirostris
Range:Tropical and subtropical oceans
Length:up to 2m
Lifespan:20 yrs
Reproduction:Gives birth every 3 yrs
Diet:Fish, squid
Predators:Orcas, Sharks, Man
IUCN Conservation statusData deficient


Spinner Dolphin identification

Spinner Dolphins are named for their unique habit of leaping high above the ocean surface and spinning on their longitudinal axis.  These charismatic cetaceans get their scientific name longirostris from their beaks which are long and slender.

There is a high level of regional variability in the appearance of Spinner Dolphin.  The body is usually slender but can be robust in some populations.  The melon is relatively flat and the dorsal fin is triangular or falcate in shape.  In the eastern population the fin bends forward, giving it the appearance that it is on backwards.  Spinner Dolphins also have a dark dorsal cape with lighter grey sides and flanks with a light grey or white belly.

Where do Spinner Dolphins live? 

Spinner Dolphins occur in all tropical and subtropical oceans.  They tend to live in the deep sea where they can track their prey.

How big are Spinner Dolphins?

Spinner Dolphins are relatively small, reaching lengths of up to 2 meters.  They weigh around 59-77 kg.

How long do Spinner Dolphins live?

Spinner Dolphin live for up to 20 years.

What do Spinner Dolphins a eat?

Spinner Dolphins feed on mid-water fish and deep water squid.  Feeding occurs mainly at night allowing them to rest during the day.

What eats Spinner Dolphins?

Orca and sharks are known to prey on Spinner Dolphins. It is also thought that false killer whales, pygmy killer whales and pilot whales may be predators.

Spinner Dolphin life cycle and reproduction

Mating and calving occurs year round with a gestation period of 11 months.  Weaning occurs after one or two years.  The calving interval is three years.

Are Spinner Dolphins endangered and if so why?

Spinner Dolphins are listed as ‘Data Deficient‘ by the IUCN.  The association of Spinner Dolphin with Yellowfin Tuna results in their entanglement in purse-seine nets.  The population of the eastern Spinner Dolphin subspecies has been reduced by 65% due to tuna fishery kills.  Hawaiian populations are being threatened by increased interactions with humans.  As Spinner Dolphins rest during the day, daytime interactions with humans can be disruptive.

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