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Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

Diputación de Málaga
Marsopa común (Phocoena phocoena)

Harbour Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena)

Reproduction Zeal Topping Hibernation
Animal Life > Mammals


It is blackish grey on the back and white on the stomach. Its head is small and with no snout. Their dorsal fin, which is placed on the second half of the body, is triangular. They have rounded nose and their teeth are spade-shaped like spatulas. They are round 1.8 or 2 m long and weigh from 50 to 100 kg.


Their habitat are coastal waters in the northern hemisphere, up to the Tropic of Cancer; above all in waters with temperature round 15ºC (59ºF).

How They Live

These animals live close to coasts, where the water is not deep, like in bays, estuaries, sea inlets, and even some rivers. These are gregarious animals, that lives in not very big packs, although some of them can reach hundred individuals. They feed off cephalopods and fish, and in some areas off salmon.


There can be big differences in reproduction periods among populations due to the availability of food, and some environmental differences, such as temperatures and photoperiod. There is data about the mating in the North Sea between July and August. After the gestation period, which takes between ten and eleven months, births occur in May and June of the following year.

Mothers nurse their young round eight or nine months. The information about the births on the Iberian coasts is still not available. Thanks to the registered beached individuals in Spain, it can be said that the young are born longer than 80 cm and that there are two periods when they are likely to be born: in summer and in spring. Females give birth to three or four babies during their life.

Threats and Conservation Measures in Andalusia

Pollution of coastal areas is one of the most important reasons for the decline in world populations of this species. In some places, they are captured or suffer from frequent fishing. As they live close to the coast and in shallow waters, they are directly harmed by actions in these areas. Moreover, they are main targets of dolphin and whale watching companies. The conservation process in the case of these species goes through the control and surveillance of their populations in the areas which are in decline or in the process of recolonization.

Places Where They Can Be Seen

Although it is extinct according to CEEA (Animal Research and Testing Ethics Committee), their presence in the Alboran Sea has been registered. These are likely to be individuals that came through the Strait of Gibraltar from the populations that live in the Atlantic Ocean. They might be creating new stable colonies on the Coast of Málaga, so they can be occasionally seen in the province. In the museum Aula del Mar (Sea Classroom) in Málaga, in 2006 one individual was treated after it had been seriously injured along the Coast of Benalmadena.


This kind of dolphins tolerate better captive conditions than other species. They can live more than twenty years, although they hardly ever reach that age.

Similar Species

Due to their size and length, they can be easily confused with young short-beaked common dolphins and striped dolphins. However, if you look carefully you can see their typical rounded porpoise nose and their small dorsal fin in the shape of a triangle.

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