My Grenada Grenadines Beach, Gecko and Grenadian girl

Activities    Beaches    Calendar    Diving    Ecology    Exploring    Geography    History   Home  Restaurants & Nightlife    Tourist Offices    Grenada Tours    Travel Tips    Grenada Weddings
Whales & Dolphins    MDDM    Carriacou    Carriacou Hotels    Grenada    Grenada Hotels  Grenadines    Petite Martinique    Petite Martinique Hotels    Grenada Video


Whales and Dolphins of the Caribbean
Thirty-three species of marine mammals have been sighted in the wider Caribbean including whales, dolphins and the West Indian Manatee. The whales pictured here are some of the more common ones. They can easily be confused at sea with other species.
Baleen Whales
Baleen whales do not have teeth. Instead, they have narrow, triangular plates of baleen growing down from their upper jaw. The baleen acts like a giant strainer to sift out the food from the sea water. All baleen whales have two blowholes. They are often called the great whales. The Caribbean is an important mating and calving area for baleen whales.
Humpback Whale
  • Scientific name: Megaptera novaeangliae
  • Length: average size 11-16 meters (35-50 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings - Head: knobs on head and chin
  • Baleen: 360-400 ash black plates on each side of upper jaw
  • Flipper: long, white, up to 5 meters (15 feet)
  • Dorsal Fin: often scarred, located more than halfway down back; size and shape differ for individuals
  • Tail: black above; underside of tail fluke may vary from white to black; trailing edges are irregular Each humpback whale's tail flukes are different; scientists photograph the ventral pattern to identify individuals. Body: black above, varying amounts of white on belly; up to 25 throat grooves
  • Behaviour: Humpback whales are known for their acrobatic behaviours including jumping out of the water (breaching), slapping their flippers on the water (flippering), or smacking their tail flukes on the water (lobtailing). Mothers and calves are commonly seen during the breeding season (December to April). Humpbacks are also known as the "singing whales."

Bryde's Whale
  • Scientific name: Balaenoptera edeni
  • Length: average size 9-13 meters (28-40 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings - Head: 2 ridges on either side of central ridge
  • Baleen: 250-370 dark grey plates on each side of upper jaw
  • Flipper: small, pointed
  • Dorsal Fin: curved, pointed at tip; located 2/3 of body length from snout
  • Body: dark grey on back; often light grey areas on side; dark on both sides of head; belly and chin usually white; 40-50 throat grooves which expand during feeding
  • Behaviour: Upon surfacing, Bryde's (pronounced Brew-dess) whales often show their head. Usually seen alone, occasionally in loose groups of 2-4.

Toothed Whales
Toothed whales include porpoises, dolphins and all whales with teeth. These animals are generally smaller than the baleen whales, with the exception of the sperm whale. All toothed whales have one blowhole. Although fishermen call many toothed whales "porpoises," scientists call them dolphins. Porpoises have spade-shaped teeth; dolphins have cone-shaped teeth. There are no "true" porpoises in the Caribbean region.

Sperm Whale
  • Scientific name: Physeter catodon
  • Local name: Sea wap or sea guap
  • Length: males up to 15 meters (46 feet) females 9-10 meters (28-31 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings - Head: huge, boxlike; single blowhole, on left side of forehead
  • Teeth: narrow lower jaw with 18-25 large, cone-shaped teeth on each side. These teeth fit into sockets in the upper jaw.
  • Flipper: short and stubby
  • Dorsal Fin: no back fin but a raised hump located 2/3 back from the snout
  • Body: brown; wrinkled skin behind head; triangular tail flukes, dark brown on both sides with deep central notch
  • Behaviour: Sperm whales are commonly seen in small, scattered groups (2-20 animals) usually in deep water but may come close to shore. Dives may last more than 45 minutes. Between dives, they may rest on the surface from 8 minutes to nearly an hour.

Short-finned Pilot Whale
  • Scientific name: Globicephala macrorhynchus
  • Local name: Blackfish
  • Length: males 5 meters (15 feet) females 4 meters (13 feet
  • Distinctive Markings - Head: thick rounded head; no beak
  • Teeth: 7-9 peg like teeth in each row
  • Flipper: slender, sickle-shaped; 1/6th (or less) of body length
  • Dorsal Fin: curved, rounded tip with long base; set forward of mid-body
  • Body: black with light grey saddle behind dorsal fin (hard to see); light grey areas on chest
  • Behaviour: Blackfish commonly travel in groups of 5-15, and sometimes in groups of several hundred. When diving, pilot whales may raise their tail flukes.

False Killer Whale
  • Scientific name: Pseudorca crassidens
  • Length: average 5 meters (15 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings
  • Head: tapers, overhanging upper jaw
  • Teeth: 8-11 in each row
  • Flipper: slender, sickle-shaped; 1/6th or less of body length; broad hump on front of flipper
  • Dorsal Fin: tall, curved; tip rounded
  • Body: slender, all black except grey blaze on chest
  • Behaviour: False killer whales may form large groups of 100 or more, but usually travel in groups of 6-10

  • Scientific name: Grampus griseus
  • Length: 3 to 4 meters (9-13 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings - Head: rounded head; no beak
  • Teeth: only in lower jaw; 3-7 in each row, worn with age
  • Dorsal Fin: curved, pointed; up to 15 inches tall; scarred
  • Body: grey with white scratches or scars
  • Behaviour: Grampus generally travel in groups of 5 to 25, sometimes with pilot whales. They prefer deep water (100 fathoms or more).

Bottlenose Dolphin
  • Scientific name: Tursiops truncatus
  • Local name: Black porpoise
  • Length: 2.5 to 4 meters (8-13 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings - Head: short, stubby beak; lower jaw sticks out farther than upper jaw; crease where forehead and snout meet
  • Teeth: 18-26 in each row
  • Dorsal Fin: tall and very curved; located slightly behind mid-body
  • Body: stocky; dark grey above, lighter grey on belly; pattern often indistinct
  • Behaviour: Bottlenose dolphins commonly travel in small groups of between 2-25, often shoreward of 10 fathom line. Also seen offshore. May be confused with rough-toothed dolphins, Steno bredanensis, that are smaller, brownish but with no crease in forehead.

Striped Dolphin
  • Scientific name: Stenella coeruleoalba
  • Length: 2 to 2.5 meters (6-8 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings - Head: black beak
  • Teeth: 43-50 in each row
  • Dorsal Fin: curved, located mid-body
  • Body: black stripe from eye toward fluke, and from eye to flipper; grey blaze starts behind eye and sweeps onto black back; white belly Behaviour: Striped dolphins often travel in groups of up to 100 or more.

Common Dolphin
  • Scientific name: Delphinus delphis
  • Local name: Saddleback
  • Length: 2 to 2.5 meters (6-8 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings - Head: black beak and lips, often white-tipped
  • Teeth: 40-55 in each row
  • Dorsal Fin: triangular, located mid-body
  • Body: black or brown above; white or cream chest and belly; V-shaped, dark saddle below dorsal fin
  • Behaviour: Common dolphins are known for bow-riding and jumping. They may travel in groups of up to 100. They are usually found seaward of 100 fathom line but can be seen close to shore.

Spotted Dolphin
  • Scientific name: Stenella attenuate
  • Local name: Spotter, pink bellies, school boy porpoise
  • Length: 2.2 meters (7 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings  - Head: tip of beak usually white; black eye patch and eye band Teeth: 30-36 in each row of upper jaw, 28-35 in each row of lower jaw Dorsal Fin: tall, curved backwards; pointed at tip, located mid-body
  • Body: young are two-tone greys; with age, dark spots develop on grey background; adults have white spots on dark background; blaze below and behind dorsal fin.
  • Behaviour: Spotted dolphins frequently make high leaps and travel in groups of 50 or more. They can be confused with other species of spotted dolphins, Stenella frontalis, locally called, rollover porpoise; often travel with, Stenella clymene, short-snouted spinner.

Spinner Dolphin
  • Scientific name: Stenella longirostris
  • Local name: Skipjack porpoise, spinner
  • Length: 1.8 meters (5.5 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings  - Head: long, narrow head; black beak Teeth: 45-65 in each row Dorsal Fin: triangular, fin tipped slightly forward, located mid-body
  • Body: slender; dark grey on back; lighter tan on sides; and grey/white on belly; cape forms an S shape below dorsal fin.
  • Behaviour: Spinners are known for jumping and spinning.
    They may occur in groups of up to 200 or more

West Indian Manatee
Although manatees are not whales, they are marine mammals. They are found in rivers, swamps, springs and coastal waters in the southeast United States to as far south as northern Brazil. There are only a few manatee populations left in the Caribbean. They are protected in every country in which they occur.
  • Scientific name: Trichechus manatus
  • Local name: Sea cow
  • Length: average up to 4 meters (13 feet)
  • Distinctive Markings - Head: wrinkled, whiskers on mouth
  • Teeth: 6-8 teeth in each of 4 rows; most are very worn
  • Flipper: paddle-shaped flippers with nails; mammary glands located at base of flippers
  • Tail: round, spoon-shaped
  • Body: grey, round, and wrinkled; can weigh over 1590 kilograms (3500 pounds)
  • Behaviour: Manatees feed on a variety of sea grass and other vegetation. They swim slowly just below or at the surface of the water. They are often injured or killed by boats.

The publication of this field guide was funded by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. Additional support for research, art and distribution was funded by Cetacean Society International, International Fund for Animal Welfare, Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, Plymouth Marine Mammal Research Centre, Save the Manatee Club and Special Expeditions.

Please send sightings or stranding reports including date, time, location and behaviour to:

Whale Sighting Network

Museum of Antigua and Barbuda

P.O. Box 103

St. John's, Antigua, W.I.

Tel. 809-462-4930

Anguilla  Antigua  Barbados  Bonaire  Cayman  Cuba  Curacao  Dominica
Dominican Republic  Grenada  Guadeloupe  Haiti  Jamaica  Martinique  Montserrat  Netherlands Antilles  Puerto Rico  Saint Martin  St. Kitts & Nevis St. Lucia  St. Vincent
Trinidad & Tobago Turks & Caicos  UK Virgin  US Virgin

Activities  Beaches  Calendar  Diving  Ecology  Exploring  Geography  History  Home  Restaurants & Nightlife  Tourist Offices  Grenada Tours  Travel Tips  Grenada Weddings
hales & Dolphins  MDDM
  Carriacou  Carriacou Hotels  Grenada  Grenada Hotels  Grenadines  Petite Martinique  Petite Martinique Hotels



Activities   Beaches   Calendar   Diving   Ecology   Exploring   Geography   History   Home  Restaurants & Nightlife   Tourist Offices   Grenada Tours   Travel Tips   Grenada Weddings
hales & Dolphins   MDDM
   Carriacou   Carriacou Hotels   Grenada   Grenada Hotels  Grenadines   Petite Martinique   Petite Martinique Hotels   Video