The oceans of South Africa contain a diverse ecosystem of marine life, including whales and their smaller relatives, dolphins. Three types of dolphins in South Africa are the bottlenose dolphin, the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin and the long-beaked common dolphin. Belonging to the family Delphinidae, the types of dolphins in South Africa are actually toothed whales.
Also known by its scientific name tursiops aduncus, the bottlenose dolphin swims along the shoreline of east Cape Town. Bottlenose dolphins are one of the largest types of dolphins in South Africa, reaching an adult length of over 7 feet. An even larger species of bottlenose dolphin called tursiops truncatus reaches an adult length of over 9 feet, but this species rarely swims near the shore. Bottlenose dolphin mothers give birth to one young dolphin after an entire year of pregnancy. These dolphins are the most likely species to interact with humans, performing tricks such as somersaults and fin splashes.
The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin has a small population in the waters surrounding South Africa’s coast. Numbers are estimated to be in the range of 1,000 to 1,200 adults and juveniles. One of the most distinctive types of dolphins in South Africa, the humpbacked dolphin has a long, wide hump below its round, pointed dorsal fin. Like the bottlenose dolphin, humpbacked dolphins are born after 12 months of pregnancy and continue to nurse from their mothers for several years. They are a shy species and generally stay away from boats and other human activity.
One of the smallest types of dolphins in South Africa is the long-beaked common dolphin, reaching a length of about 2.4 meters. Similar in size to the smaller species of bottlenose dolphin, the long-beaked common dolphin tends to weigh less and appear weaker than its more energetic relative. The reason for this difference in size is perhaps the common dolphin’s practice of nursing only for a few months before being weaned from the mother. Common dolphins usually live for forty years or longer. Like bottlenose dolphins, common dolphins often swim near humans and boats.