Description & Behavior

Spectacled porpoises, Phocoena dioptrica (Lahille, 1912), aka marsopa de anteojos, and bicolour porpoises, are small porpoises with a large rounded dorsal fin. Females have a more triangular fin. Their upper body is glossy blue-black in color, with a distinctive sharp line portraying a change to white on their lower sides and underneath. This white area may expand with age. There is a white stripe along the upper side of their tail stock (area just before their tail). A black patch is present around each eye, surrounded by a fine white line. Their lips are black and one or two dark gray stripes lead from their lips to the flippers, extending along the leading edge. These porpoises measure 1.3-2.2 m in length, and weigh between 60-115 kg.

Spectacled porpoises tend to travel in small groups of 1-2 animals. They move by rolling slowly forward in the water and are not as acrobatic as other small cetaceans.

Spectacled porpoises have 17-23 (upper) or 17-20 (lower) spade-shaped teeth.

World Range & Habitat


Spectacled porpoises, Phocoena dioptrica, inhabit the coastal waters of certain offshore islands and the southern Atlantic coast of South America. There are records from the Falkland Islands, South Georgia, Kerguelen Islands, Heard Island, Macquarie Island, and the Aukland Islands. Although rarely seen at sea, the spectacled porpoise may be circumpolar in the subantarctic. Sightings have occurred in offshore waters as well as in rivers and channels.

Feeding Behavior (Ecology)

Spectacled porpoises, Phocoena dioptrica, feed on fish (mainly anchovies, stomatopods) and squid.

Life History

Spectacled porpoises calve in the southern spring to summer. Essentially nothing else is known of this species’ behavior and biology.

Conservation Status & Comments

Argentina and Uruguay occasionally hunt these porpoises and an unknown number die from entrapment within fishing gear every year. In the past, this species was apparently harpooned by Tierra del Fuegan natives, as well as fishermen and whalers.

References & Further Research

OBIS-SEAMAP – Species Profiles
FAO Species Identification Guide – Marine Mammals of the World (PDF)
Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS)
GOODALL, R. N. P. 2002. Spectacled porpoise Phocoena dioptrica. Pp. 1158-1161 in W. F. Perrin, B. Wursig and J. G. M. Thewissen, eds. Encyclopedia of marine mammals. Academic Press.

Research Phocoena dioptrica @
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

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