The 10 Types of Dolphins in Florida Waters

Written by Katie Downey
Published: December 1, 2023
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In Florida, plenty of sites can be seen, and adventures are always just around the corner. It is an action-packed ocean-lovers dream and comes with its fair share of marine life. Dolphins are one of the many reasons people flock to Florida, and the number of dolphin cruises available says it all. Whether you take your chances seeing dolphins while out surfing in the ocean or kayaking in the sound, those are excellent ways to run into particular dolphins at dawn and dusk. Further out in the ocean and away from the noisy beaches, even more species of dolphins exist while on sunset dolphin cruises. What types of dolphins in Florida waters might you be lucky enough to spot?

1. Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

A Common Bottlenose Dolphin being playful

Bottlenose dolphins are common in the Atlantic Ocean.

©RMMPPhotography/Shutterstock.com

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The lovely bottlenose dolphins are the most commonly seen in the Atlantic Ocean and, more specifically, in Florida. They are curious and love playing. This is one dolphin that hunts along the shallow beach waters, and you just might see them at dawn and sometimes at dusk. Florida offers many types of dolphin cruises for a fee. On them, you may get to see some of these curious grey friends up close. They enjoy playing in the big wake that the cruise boats make.

Bottlenose dolphins have a lighter grey upper and white underside. They range in size from 6.6 to 13.1 feet long. Their noses are stubby, hence the “bottle” description, and overall, they are medium-sized dolphins. The dolphins weigh 330 – 1,400 pounds on average.

2. Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris)

Spinner Dolphins Mauritius Indian Ocean Summer Stenella longirostris

As their name suggests, spinner dolphins can do some impressive spinning action as they leap from the ocean.

©Christopher Berthelot/Shutterstock.com

Spinner dolphins are another species commonly seen from the shore in Florida. They almost seem to be performing tricks when they boldly leap into the air, emphasizing their excellent spinning. Some spin so many times, repeatedly jumping out of the water, that you would imagine the big-brained smart mammals would become dizzy. Since dolphins enjoy playing so much, this could be a silly game for them, like kids who love going on the merry-go-round!

Spinner dolphins are 5.6 – 7.5 feet long, significantly smaller than the even more commonly seen bottlenose dolphin. They weigh only 130 – 170 pounds more than the bottlenose dolphin.

3. Fraser’s Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata)

Pan tropical spotted dolphin, dolphin

The Fraser’s pantropical spotted dolphin looks similar to the spinner dolphin, except for their “freckles.”

©Pascale Gueret/iStock via Getty Images

Fraser’s pantropical spotted dolphin is another dolphin that you might see from the comfort of the beach, though you are more likely to see them if you take a dolphin cruise that takes you a bit further out into the open ocean. That is where they spend most of their time.

The Fraser’s pantropical spotted dolphin is 8.5 feet long on average and weighs approximately 300 pounds on average. They are darker grey on the top section of their bodies, with a wave design between the darker grey and the lighter grey on the underside. Along the lighter underside of their bodies, dark grey spots cover the lighter shade and appear freckle-like.

4. Rough-Toothed Dolphin (Steno bredanensis)

Rough Toothed Dolphins

Rough-toothed dolphins look more like sea dinosaurs than bottlenose dolphins.

©Cory Fults/Shutterstock.com

The rough-toothed dolphin has an exciting look that appears to be from a different prehistoric time. They are amazing if you get the chance to view one up close. This type of dolphin sticks to the open ocean and isn’t typically near the shore. Your best bet at seeing one of the rough-toothed dolphins is on a dolphin cruise or out further in the open ocean on a private boat.

The rough-toothed dolphin is typically 8.5 feet long and weighs approximately 350 pounds. They have long, slender bodies with less definition between the nose and head. The rough-toothed dolphins are dark grey with a lighter grey wave design on their sides. They have white undersides, grey-mottled dark patches on their backs, and a few white spots.

5. Risso’s Dolphin (Grampus griseus)

Risso's Dolphin - Grampus griseus

The Risso’s dolphins are fond of continental shelves where plenty of food is available.

©Tory Kallman/Shutterstock.com

Risso’s dolphin prefers the open ocean’s deep waters to the shore’s hot shallow waters. These dolphins are shy when compared to some of the other dolphin species. They can sometimes be seen from boats as they play and jump out of the water. They often play with other species of dolphins, too.

The Risso’s dolphin averages 8.5 – 13 feet long and weighs 850 – 1300 pounds. They are muscular and stocky with a head that is rounder like a beluga whale than a dolphin. Their tails are narrow and almost seem too small for their bodies. They do not have teeth in the upper portion of their jaw and only seven pairs of teeth on the lower. The dolphin’s body is grey but typically becomes covered with scars as it ages. The scars are from other dolphins and squid, their favorite food.

6. Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)

striped Dolphins while jumping in the deep blue sea

The striped dolphin is known for its amazing acrobatic display it does in the open ocean.

©izanbar/iStock via Getty Images

Striped dolphins can sometimes be seen from the shore but prefer the open ocean. They are very playful and seen in large pods, like most other dolphins. These dolphins are very social and put on rather amazing shows of flips, somersaults, and big leaps in a boat’s wake. They can be seen by boat a little offshore.

These dolphins are mid-sized, averaging 6.2 – 8.2 feet long, and weigh 230 – 330 pounds on average. They are dark grey on the upper side and have light blue to dark grey stripes along their sides.

7. Atlantic Spotted Dolphins (Stenella frontalis)

An Atlantic spotted mother dolphin with her baby in the waters of the Bahamas.

Atlantic spotted dolphins are the Appaloosa of the dolphin species.

©Joost van Uffelen/Shutterstock.com

The Atlantic spotted dolphin lives in the Gulf of Mexico in Florida and prefers the open ocean to the shallow shore areas. They are often seen on dolphin cruises or fishing boats since they are incredibly playful and enjoy leaping in the wake of the boats.

These dolphins are typically 5.9 – 7.9 feet long and weigh 220 – 300 pounds on average. They are greyish-blue on their upper, while their bellies are white or light grey. They have many darker grey spots, which is their namesake.

8. Long-Beaked Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis)

Long-beaked Common Dolphin - Delphinus capensis

Long-beaked dolphins have an hourglass on the sides of their bodies.

©Tory Kallman/Shutterstock.com

The long-beaked common dolphin hunts in shallow waters and can be seen from the beach. The best time to see them is at dawn or dusk. They are found in the open ocean but can sometimes be spotted from the shore as they jump and play in the waves with their pods.

The long-beaked common dolphin is 6.2 – 8.2 feet long and typically weighs 180 – 500 pounds. They have a longer, narrow beak or nose than the other more common dolphins. These dolphins are muscular and dark to medium grey with a white or light grey underside. Yellowish-grey and dark-gray sections come together on their sides to form an hourglass.

9. Short-Beaked Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis)

Short-beaked Common Dolphin, delphinus delphis, jumping from the Atlantic Ocean off the Portuguese coast of Sagres, The Algarve, Portugal

Short-beaked dolphins only live in warm or tropical waters.

©PJ photography/Shutterstock.com

The short-beaked common dolphin is, precisely as their name indicates, common. They live throughout the world’s oceans but prefer deeper waters. These dolphins were considered sailors’ friends since they loved swimming alongside boats and catching the waves. They do this with large whales, too!

These dolphins range from 5.5 to 8.5 feet long and weigh up to 250 pounds. They are darker grey on their upper and light grey to white on their undersides with yellow side patches and geometric patterns. This coloration makes them unique from other dolphins and quite pretty!

10. Clymene Dolphin (Stenella clymene)

Flock of dolphins playing in the blue water near Mafushi island, Maldives.

Clymene dolphins are unique because they are the only hybrid dolphin species known.

©Matej Kastelic/Shutterstock.com

The Clymene dolphins are a cross between striped and spinner dolphins. This means they have even more friends and family members to play with anytime! They are the only hybrid dolphin. They were once called short-snouted spinner dolphins before receiving their hybrid name. Clymene dolphins are often spotted playing from boats as they leap from the water and put on neat acrobatic displays.

The Clymene dolphin averages 6 – 6.5 feet long and weighs 150 – 180 pounds. These dolphins have a white belly, light grey sides, and a dark area that dips between their eyes. They have short noses or beaks and prefer deep water in the open ocean.

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


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About the Author

Katie Downey is a writer for A-Z Animals where her primary focus is on wildlife, arachnids and insects. Katie has been writing and researching animals for more than a decade. Katie worked in animal rescue and rehabilitation with handicapped cats and farm animals for many years. As a resident of North Carolina, Katie enjoys exploring nature with her son, educating others on the positive role that insects and spiders play in the ecosystem and raising jumping spiders.

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