Description & Behavior
Burmeister’s porpoises, Phocoena spinipinnis (Burmeister, 1865), aka black porpoises, marsopa espinosa (“spiny porpoise”), have a beakless upturned mouth and a slight indentation near their blowhole. Their flippers are large, with a broad base and blunt tips. Their dorsal fin is set further back than on any other small cetaceans with a series of tubercles (bumps) found along its leading edge. Their tail stock (part just before the tail fins) thickens with age. Their body is dark-gray or black in color, occasionally appearing brown, and lightens to a pale gray on their ventral (under) side. A few moments after death, these porpoises turn entirely black (like finless porpoises) and they reach a maximum length of 1.85 m.
World Range & Habitat
Burmeister’s porpoises, Phocoena spinipinnis, inhabit shallow waters and estuaries in the temperate and subantarctic coastal waters around South America. They tend to be found in groups of between 1-8 individuals.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
Burmeister’s porpoises, Phocoena spinipinnis, feed on anchovy and hake throughout most of their range. Squid, mysid shrimp, and euphasiids are also preyed upon. Burmeister’s porpoises in Chilean waters also appear to eat mollusks (snails, squid, octopuses, etc.).
Conservation Status & Comments
Burmeister’s porpoises, Phocoena spinipinnis, are listed as Data Deficient with the IUCN Redlist though some researchers consider them endangered with a estimated current population of only 500 individuals. Clearly, more work is needed to determine their current status as well as population numbers, etc. This porpoise has been exploited for thousands of years, and Peru and Chile still operate direct fisheries. Those on the Atlantic coast become trapped in fishing gear (see the IUCN link above for details).
References & Further Research
OBIS-SEAMAP – Species Profiles
Jefferson, T.A., S. Leatherwood, and M.A. Webber, FAO species identification guide, Marine mammals of the world, Rome, FAO. 1993. 320 p. 587 figs.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)
Brownell Jr., R.L. and Clapham, P.J. 1999. Burmeister’s porpoise Phocoena spinipinnis. In S.H. Ridgeway & R. Harrison [eds.], Handbook of Marine Mammals, Volume 6: The Second Book of Dolphins and Porpoises. Academic Press. San Diego.
Research Phocoena spinipinnis @
Barcode of Life ~ BioOne ~ Biodiversity Heritage Library ~ CITES ~ Cornell Macaulay Library ~ Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) ~ ESA Online Journals ~ FishBase ~ Florida Museum of Natural History Ichthyology Department ~ GBIF ~ Google Scholar ~ ITIS ~ IUCN RedList (Threatened Status) ~ Marine Species Identification Portal ~ NCBI (PubMed, GenBank, etc.) ~ Ocean Biogeographic Information System ~ PLOS ~ SIRIS ~ Tree of Life Web Project ~ UNEP-WCMC Species Database ~ WoRMS