Dolphins and PorpoiseThere is no greater thrill than having hundreds of dolphins leaping around the boat and rushing towards the Sanctuary to playfully ride the bow. Graceful and extremely fast and acrobatic, our dolphins really entertain when we have the good fortune to cross their paths. Monterey Bay is home to many species of dolphins and two types of porpoise. The deep waters of the Monterey Submarine Canyon provide excellent feeding grounds for deep water dolphins that come into the bay at all seasons of the year.
Risso's Dolphin (Grampus griseus)
The Risso's dolphin is our largest, deepest diving dolphin. Risso's dolphins will dive to depths of over a thousand feet in search of their favorite food, the squid. We observe them cruising along slowly at the surface and often will see them breaching, head slapping and tail slapping, creating big splashes that can be seen from afar. We call these dolphins the "phantom dolphins" because of the eerie, yet awesome, turquoise glow from their bodies as they swim just below the water's surface. Why the scrapes and scratches? They "rake" each other with their teeth. This commonly observed dolphin behavior is social and may be either friendly or aggressive.
Pacific White-Sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens)
Pacific White-sided Dolphins are acrobats of the ocean, leaping, twisting and body slamming. They often bow ride with great zest, catching a free ride from the boat's momentum. There is nothing like peering over the bow and watching these marvelous animals so up-close and personal.
Long-Beaked Common Dolphin (Delphinus capensis)
This lovely dolphin is far from common in looks, behavior or occurrence in Monterey Bay. Most often seen in the winter months, common dolphins may occur in pods of a thousand animals and make a remarkably striking view as they leap in unison across the water's surface. They are the masters of bow-riding and make lots of whistles and squeaks while enjoying their "free ride".
Northern Right Whale Dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis)
This extremely slender dolphin lacks a dorsal fin and has black and white markings making it look as if it is wearing a tuxedo. This is counter-coloration, a defensive mechanism found in many marine animals which makes it harder for predators to detect them. We call them the "leapin' lissos" as they often leap clear of the water in unison as they race towards the boat to bow-ride.