Porpoises and dolphins are constantly mistaken for each other, although their physique can be completely different. They both feed their young and are incredibly intelligent. They are even both warm-blooded, like any other mammal. It may be the common gray color of their skin, but everything from personality to nose shape is radically different.
In fact, they don’t even prefer the same ocean habitat, and only one of the two mammals dwells deeper than coastal waters. Which animal prefers to live in tropical waters? Who is smarter? Let’s find out.
Comparison of porpoises and dolphins
As easy as it is to confuse a dolphin and a porpoise in the wild, the two are completely different. The table below shows some of the differences, but there are 49 different dolphin species and 7 different porpoise species.
Vakita, which is currently endangered
Indo-pacific featherless porpoise
Narrow-ribbed harbor porpoise
Dall’s porpoise is the largest species.
Pacific white-sided dolphins
South Asian River Dolphin
|Color variations||Mainly black, dark gray, light gray and white||White, pink, brown, gray, blue, black|
|Nose shape||Blunt beak that merges with the rest of the face||Elongated beak extending from the face|
|Preferred habitat||Cold waters||Temperate or tropical waters|
|Dorsal fin size||Short, sometimes rounded||Tall with a high peaked peak|
5 main differences between porpoises and dolphins
While the dorsal fin and above-water appearance can be confusing, make no mistake – the porpoise and dolphin have many physical and intellectual differences that make them easy to identify. Let’s see how these two mammals differ.
Porpoise vs dolphin: protruding nose
Perhaps the easiest way to distinguish dolphins from porpoises is through the shape of their nose. The porpoise, regardless of species, has a fairly flat nose and no beak protruding beyond the muzzle. On the other hand, the dolphin has a rather long and large nose, extending several inches from the rest of its face.
The rest of their face is also very different. Due to this nose, the dolphin usually has a larger mouth. They also have a long and lean body and a much larger dorsal fin, which directly contradicts the thicker and shorter physique of the porpoise.
Porpoise vs. Dolphin: Natural Habitat
The natural habitat is another easy way to tell the difference between these animals. Both the dolphin and the porpoise will swim in coastal waters as their primary habitat. The harbor porpoise requires water no more than 650 depths, which allows them to live in both fresh and salt water. In particular, their typical location is the northern regions of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, although some also live in the Black Sea.
Depending on the species, dolphins have a much wider range of habitats. They prefer a warmer habitat, which is why they can be found in tropical or temperate climates with much deeper waters than porpoises ever risk.
Porpoise vs dolphin: who is smarter?
Dolphin is constantly praised for his intelligence, but is he really smarter than a porpoise? Both have incredible intelligence, but the dolphin wins this battle. They have a lot more curiosity about their surroundings and the people around them. Dolphins even have names for each other!
But don’t sell your porpoise cheap! Their intelligence is also controlled by a large brain, and they still have incredible self-awareness as humans.
Porpoise vs dolphin: color difference
Even among the seven different species of porpoise, there is unusually little color variation. For the most part, they are only visible in black, grayscale and white. In fact, the largest species is strikingly similar to the killer whale.
On the other hand, dolphins have many colors among four dozen species. While some have deep shades of gray and white, they are also found in navy blue, pink, and brown. Some even have unique patterns.
Porpoise vs dolphin: sea aggressors
Everyone considers the dolphin to be a friendly and fun animal that they usually see on whale watching excursions and in large aquariums, but they can be quite brutal. Dolphins have a reputation as porpoise hunters for some form of entertainment. They will bite and throw them, and their teeth leave marks and scars on dead porpoises washed ashore. Their sharp teeth leave quite large cuts all over the body.
On the other hand, porpoises usually do not reciprocate aggression, even if their teeth allow it.
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