Subject: Whales or dolphins?

bcooper@neaq.org
Fri, 19 Feb 1999 19:05:12 -0500 (EST)

Hi David and Chardy,
	Someone else asked me the same question today at the Aquarium, a
question brought out by the same TV show. 
All dolphins and porpoises are whales. 
Not all whales are dolphins.
I'll explain. Whales are divided into two large groups: Mysticetes and
Odonticetes. 
Mysticetes are the large baleen whales: Right whales,
Humpbacks, Blue, Fin backs, etc.
Odonticetes are the toothed whales such as Killer whales, pilot whales,
White-sided dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins, Sperm whales, etc.
Killer whales, pilot whales and the like are in the same family as
dolphins (Delphinidae) and are considered by many as "large" dolphins: the
upper end of "dolphin" size and the lower end of "whale" size. Sperm
whales are in a separate family, Physeteridae, and are considered whales. 

So, you were right, dolphins are toothed whales but, Killer whales
are also dolphins, just large ones. 

The Natural History of Whales and Dolphins by Peter Evans 1987.

Many links here:
(whale.wheelock.edu/whalenet-stuff/classifications.html) 



Bob Cooper
Sr. Biologist
New England Aquarium
Central Wharf
Boston, MA 02110
617-973-5273
bcoop@neaq.org    www.neaq.org

On Wed, 17 Feb 1999, David & chardy Lang wrote:

> Sir, on Saturday, National Geographic did a show on dolphins.  It said that
> all toothed whales, specifically the killer whale, are dolphins.  Their
> definition of a whale was a baleen whale.  I'd always thought it was the
> other way around, that the dolphin was considered a toothed WHALE.  Please
> help sort out this confusion.
>       Flipper
>