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Cetaceans in the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands, an archipelago of volcanic origin located in West Africa, has peculiar oceanographic and geomorphological characteristics that allow the existence of representatives of warm and tropical fauna together with elements of temperate or cold waters. So far, based on the work of the Society for the Study of Cetaceans in the Canary Islands and the Canary Islands Conservation, at least 21 species of Cetaceans, belonging to 7 Families, have been identified. This set of species, 30% of the whales and dolphins known today, make the islands one of the places in the world with the greatest diversity of cetaceans and the largest in Europe.


Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)



It is the best known species of dolphin and can be easily found within walking distance of the coast of Tenerife. Their average size is 2.7 meters for males and 2.5 for females, although the oldest exceed 3 meters. They live in groups of 10 to 30 specimens and have a dark gray color on the back that degrades towards the lower areas.

Tropical pilot whale (Globicephala macrorinchus)





Also known as "Pilot Whale" or "Shortfin Calderon", it belongs to the dolphin family. It is a cetacean with teeth (odontoceto) and its name of whale is due to its size: they can exceed 5 meters in length and weigh between 1 and 2 tons. It is the easiest specimen to find on a sighting trip in Tenerife.


Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis)



This species is characterized by the specks that cover most of its skin in adulthood. They form large groups and have a very active behavior. They can be seen most often from autumn to the end of spring. Weight: 60-80 kg. Size: up to 2.3 meters.

Rough-toothed dolphin (Steno bredanensis)


The stretch marks it presents on its teeth and its elongated skull are the most representative characteristics of this species. It is a dolphin darker than the bottle and has lighter spots. They are distributed in groups of 6 to 10 specimens. Weight: up to 150 kg. Size: up to 2.7 meters.

Tropical whale (Balaenoptera Brydei)






It is similar in appearance to the northern whale, although the tropical fin whale is smaller and more robust and presents a unique feature in the Family, which are the three dorsal crests instead of a central one. The length in males is 13.7 m and in females 14.5 m, with a maximum length of 15 m. The back features a dark bluish-gray to metallic gray color, with lighter flanks and a light throat and belly.

Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba)







Thanks to its bluish coloration and stripes (lists) ranging from the eyes to almost the tail, this dolphin is very easy to identify. Sometimes he is elusive with boats, although he is a very fast swimmer who likes to jump out of the water. Weight: 100-130 kg. Size: 2.7 meters.

Grey pilot whale (Grampus griseus)








It is morphologically very similar to the tropical pilot whale, but differs in the gray color of its skin (almost white in some adult specimens) and the contrast with the dorsal fin, which remains dark. Weight: 300-600 kg.




Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis)






The common dolphin is present in most of the seas of the planet. It is easily identifiable by the special yellowish coloration on the flanks. They can be seen more likely in winter. Weight: 80-130 kg. Size: up to 2.5 meters.

Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus)







The most distinctive feature of the fin whale is its coloration. The dorsal and lateral body is black or dark gray-brown, gradually turning white towards the ventral area. However the color on the head is asymmetrical. The right side of the face is light gray and the jaw white, like the rest of the coloration of the throat and belly. 

The left half of the face is darker, with the jaw and part of the throat dark gray. It presents a series of transverse discolorations on the back behind the head, the most apparent with an inverted V-shape and more marked on the right side.

Northern fin whale (Balaenoptera borealis)






The northern whale reaches 17.1 m in males, 18.6 m in females and can weigh up to 25,000. It is similar to the tropical whale, although larger, darker and slender, and with a single face. The head has similar proportions as those of the fin whale, boasting 1/4 to 1/5 of its total length, but narrower seen from above and with a well-defined crest. The general coloration is dark gray or brown (it can be close to black), sometimes similar to galvanized metal, except in the ventral area that is whitish and of variable extension.

False orca (Pseudorca crassidens)






It has a slender body with a dorsal fin that can measure about 30 cm. high. A distinctive feature of this species is the characteristic curve and bulge (usually called the "elbow") halfway along each of the fins. The false orca has a uniform color (dark gray to black). It grows up to about 6 m long, can weigh 1,500 Kg. and live about 60 years. It is a sociable animal, living in groups of 10 to 50 individuals.

Green turtle (Chelonia mydas) 






The green sea turtle, also known as the green turtle, black (sea) turtle or Pacific green turtle,is a species of large sea turtle of the family Cheloniidae. It is the only species in the genus Chelonia. Its range extends throughout tropical and subtropical seas around the world, with two distinct populations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but it is also found in the Indian Ocean.  The common name refers to the usually green fat found beneath its carapace, not to the color of its carapace, which is olive to black.

The body is covered by a large, teardrop-shaped carapace; it has a pair of large, paddle-like flippers. It is usually lightly colored, although in the eastern Pacific populations, parts of the carapace can be almost black. Unlike other members of its family, such as the hawksbill sea turtle. The adults usually inhabit shallow lagoons, feeding mostly on various species of seagrasses.  The turtles bite off the tips of the blades of seagrass, which keeps the grass healthy.

Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta)

Loggerhead turtles have large heads with powerful jaws. The top shell (carapace) is slightly heart-shaped and reddish-brown in adults and sub-adults, while the bottom shell (plastron) is generally a pale yellowish color. The neck and flippers are usually dull brown to reddish brown on top and medium to pale yellow on the sides and bottom. Unlike freshwater turtles and tortoises, sea turtles cannot withdraw their head or flippers into their shells. Hatchlings are mostly dark brown, their flippers have white to white-gray margins, and the  bottom shell is generally yellowish to tan. Loggerhead turtles are found worldwide primarily in subtropical and temperate regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans, and in the Mediterranean Sea. In the Atlantic, the loggerhead turtle's range extends from Newfoundland to Argentina. In the eastern Pacific, loggerheads have been reported from Alaska to Chile. Loggerhead sea turtles are long-lived and could live 70 to 80 years or more. Female loggerheads reach maturity at about 35 years of age. Every 2 to 3 years they mate in coastal waters and return to nest on a beach in the general area where they hatched decades earlier.

- or Blainville's beaked whale (Mesoplodon densirostris)
- or Common beaked whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
- or Gervais' beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus)
- o Pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps)
- or Fraser's dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei)
- or Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus)
- or Yubarta (Megaptera novaeangliae)
- or Fin whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)
- or orca (Orcinus orca)


atlantic spotted dolphin1.jpg
bottlenose dolphin1.jpg
tropical brydei whale1.jpg
stripped dolphin1.jpg
rough toothed dolphin1.jpg
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fin whale1.jpg
northern fin whale1.jpg
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green turtle.jpg
loggerhead sea turtle.jpg
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