Description & Behavior
Striped dolphins, Stenella coeruleoalba (Meyen, 1833), aka blue-white dolphins, range in body lengths from 2.2-2.4 m and have a fusiform (tapers at both ends) body, like all dolphins, with tall dorsal fins, long, narrow flippers, and a prominent beak. They are named for their characteristic stripe patterns. They are blue-gray in color with a dark dorsal cape and light coloring on their ventral (under) side. A blue-black stripe extends along the length of their body, and they have black stripes on their flippers.
Striped dolphins are a gregarious species found in groups between a few to over 1,000 with average school sizes ranging from 100-500 dolphins. Schools consist of either: juveniles, breeding adults, or non-breeding adults. Calves typically join the juvenile school about 1-2 years after weaning. Females typically join the non-breeding adult school during the transition to sexual maturity.
Striped dolphins are very agile and are known to breach (jump out of the water), bow ride, and “roto-tail” = a behavior where they make high arcing jumps then rapidly rotate the tail several times before re-entering the water.
Striped dolphins communicate using clicks and whistles like many other dolphins.
World Range & Habitat
Striped dolphins, Stenella coeruleoalba, are found in warm-temperate and tropical seas throughout the world including: the Mediterranean Sea, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Striped dolphins occupy both offshore and inshore waters above 20°C.
Feeding Behavior (Ecology)
Striped dolphins, Stenella coeruleoalba, feed on cephalopods, crustaceans, and bony fishes. Their diet varies by region. Mediterranean striped dolphins tend to feed on cephalopods and northeastern Atlantic striped dolphins feed primarily on fish such as cod. Striped dolphins feed in pelagic or benthopelagic zones, often along the continental slope.
Male striped dolphins, Stenella coeruleoalba, reach sexual maturity between ages 7-15, females between 5-13 years. In the western North Pacific range of the striped dolphin, mating season takes place in winter and in early summer. In the Mediterranean, mating season takes place in the fall. The gestation period lasts between 12-13 months during which time fetuses grow at an approximate rate of 0.29 cm/day. Newborns measure 0.9-1 m in length and weigh about 11.3 kg. The nursing period lasts for about 16 months. Females typically have a four year calving interval, resting for 2-6 months between lactation and the next mating season.
Conservation Status & Comments
Striped dolphins, Stenella coeruleoalba, feed on fish species that are also popular with commercial fisheries, such as anchovies, tuna, and cod, which increases the entanglement risk for striped dolphins. The number of striped dolphins killed in this manner has decreased over the past few decades, but conflict between the dolphins and commercial fishing gear remains a problem.
Striped dolphins are sometimes hunted for their meat. The striped dolphin is classified as “Conservation Dependent”, which means that they are being protected by conservation efforts. Without these efforts, this species would likely be reclassified as Threatened.
References & Further Research
Research Stenella coeruleoalba @
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