Lucky Boaters Spot Incredibly Rare “Hybrid” Dolphins Swimming Alongside Them

Written by Jennifer Geer
Published: August 22, 2023
Share on:


Key Points

  • Boaters spot rare hybrid dolphins swimming off the English coast.
  • The two dolphins are believed to be a cross between a common and a striped dolphin.
  • It’s the first time the hybrid species has been reported in the area.

The lucky passengers and crew of a boat tour cruising off the coast of England found themselves treated to a rare sight. What they saw were two hybrid dolphins frolicking among a pod of common dolphins alongside their boat.

The sighting occurred off the coast of Falmouth, Cornwall, in southwest England. The hybrid dolphins are likely a cross between a common dolphin and a striped dolphin, a species that has never before been reported swimming in the area.

Passengers and crew on the tour boat, run by AK Wildlife Cruises, noticed two dolphins in the pod had unusual features. They reported the sighting to the United Kingdom charity, the Sea Watch Foundation. The hybrid dolphins shared features of both species. The dolphins shared both the hourglass pattern and coloring of the common dolphin. Yet they also shared the distinct stripes of a striped dolphin.

How Rare Are Hybrid Dolphins?

According to the Sea Watch Foundation, spotting a cross between a common dolphin species and a striped dolphin is a “relatively uncommon” encounter in the UK. Cetacean species do interbreed regularly. But it’s unusual to see cross-breeding between the striped and common dolphin, according to the foundation. 

Furthermore, striped dolphins aren’t often spotted seen in the waters near the UK. However, the charity organization stated there have been a few reported sightings in the past. However, this is the first time such a sighting has been reported in the Cornish waters.

How Do Striped Dolphins Differ From Common Dolphins?

striped Dolphins while jumping in the deep blue sea

Boaters spot rare hybrid dolphins crossed between the striped and common dolphin. Seen here is a striped dolphin jumping out of the water.

©izanbar/iStock via Getty Images

According to the Sea Watch Foundation, striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) are similar in size and shape to the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis). Striped dolphins can be easily identified by their distinct color pattern of bold, thin black stripes running from their eye to their flipper. They also have another set of stripes down the side of their body.

In contrast, common dolphins have an “hourglass” color pattern. It’s a dark gray cape spanning the back of their head to below the dorsal fin, creating an hourglass image.

South Africa, Africa, Dolphin, Animal, Animal Wildlife

Common dolphins live and travel in pods. Sometimes they are seen traveling with ‘megapods,’ which is likely a combination of a few different pods.


Where Do Striped Dolphins Live?

Striped dolphins live in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea off the coasts of France, and the Iberian Peninsula. Rarely, they are occasionally spotted off the coasts of Britain, Ireland, and Scotland. Common dolphins, on the other hand, are abundant in the waters off the English coast.

What Dolphin Species Are Common Around the UK Coastline?

You are most likely to spot harbor porpoises and bottlenose dolphins around the UK waters. However, around 28 different species of whales and dolphins have been identified, according to the UK charity, Whale and Dolphin Conservation. Common dolphins sometimes can be spotted deeper offshores. However, striped dolphins are rarely seen, making this cross between the two a rare sight when the boaters spotted the rare hybrid dolphins.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © izanbar/iStock via Getty Images

Share on:
About the Author

Jennifer Geer is a writer at A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on animals, news topics, travel, and weather. Jennifer holds a Master's Degree from the University of Tulsa, and she has been researching and writing about news topics and animals for over four years. A resident of Illinois, Jennifer enjoys hiking, gardening, and caring for her three pugs.

Thank you for reading! Have some feedback for us? Contact the AZ Animals editorial team.