How Long Does a Dolphin Live?

How long does a dolphin live? A quite good & interesting question but a bit tricky to answer as dolphins are the most loveable marine mammals of all. So do you want to know the appropriate age of dolphins? If yes, so you’re in the right place. In this article, we cite industry experts & researchers to answer your query. Check it out!

How Long Does a Dolphin Live

Lifetime Of Dolphins:

In late 1950 the U.S Navy Marine Mammal Research Program started to work with dolphins to examine their hydrodynamic properties & to see how long does a dolphin lives or survives. Dolphins, an extremely interesting & fun creature in the sea usually live up to 40-50 years however, the average is 25 years.

It basically varies from specie to specie & according to the habitat they’re living in. You can say that a dolphin’s lifespan is somehow related to human beings but in some cases, dolphins die earlier due to illness, due to our negligence in the protection of the ocean with all the pollutants that we throw in the ocean, due to global warming & sometimes after hitting by boats or ships.


According to scientific studies, it is said that aquatic mammals living in a good or better environment can live a longer life as compared to the wild. It has been also said that dolphins’ life expectancy significantly increased over the last few decades.

Types of Dolphins & their Lifeline:

As we’re discussing dolphins in that regard, it’s very important to know their types as well.

According to researchers, there are 42 different kinds of dolphin species like Oceanic, River, Brackish & New World River, etc.

Now below here is a list of some dolphin species along with their estimated life expectancies:

Types Lifespan
Amazon River Dolphin 15-20
Dusky Dolphin 20-25
Baiji Dolphin 20 -25
Striped Dolphin 50-60
Hector’s Dolphin 15-20
Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphin 40
Dusky Dolphin 20-25
Chinese River Dolphin Average 25
Bottlenose Dolphin 40-50
Irrawaddy Dolphin 25-30
Yangtze River Dolphin 20-25
Maui’s Dolphin 20-30
Common Dolphin 35
Indian River Dolphin 26
Freshwater Dolphin 15-25

How Long Does a Dolphin Live in Aquariums:

Dolphins living in aquariums basically have a lower life expectancy of about 12 years as compared to those of the wild, living between 30-and 50 years. It is also said that dolphins who were born into confinement live significantly lower than those born in the wild or have been seized from the wild.

How Long Does a Dolphin Live in Wild:

Usually, dolphins can live longer up to at least 30-40 years in oceans or on average about 25 years which is way more than living in captivity. Dolphins living in natural habitats are more likely to explore new things with their friends & families.

Moreover, dolphins living in oceans can swim up to 60-70 miles per day. Interesting right! Ocean dolphins can also build long-lasting relationships while mating, hunting, or protecting each other.

How Long Does a Dolphin Live in Freshwater:

Dolphins can’t live in freshwater for a longer period of time as they’re known marine mammals which live in saltwater environments. Regarding this, when they move to freshwater habitat, they start peeling off due to which bacteria & microorganisms invade it & eventually lead to death. But some of the dolphins like Amazon or South Asian River dolphins are known to live in freshwater habitats only.


Dolphins normally live till the age of 40-50 just like humans (60-70) & it varies according to the species, environment & habitat they’re living in. But in most cases, dolphins die earlier due to disorders, water pollution, or after being hit by boats or sails. It is also said scientifically that Aquarium dolphins have a longer life expectancy as compared to those living in wild.

What do Dolphins Eat:

As we all know that dolphins are meat-eating animals so they do eat sea creatures as well. But it generally depends upon their species, habitat, environment, community & location, and what kinda food is available.

For example, some smaller dolphins like to eat smaller fish or sea creatures. But most dolphins like deep water bottlenose dolphins eat marine, sea fish & squids while a common bottlenose dolphin typically feeds on fish & invertebrates found near the seashore.

Dolphins also sometimes like to eat small rocks, seaweed pieces & small shellfish, etc.

What does an Amazon River Dolphin like to Eat?

Amazon river dolphin is also among one of the types of dolphins & is also called a Boto. This type of dolphin basically has a very different food diet.

Normally dolphins like to eat fish, squids & small sea creatures but the amazon river dolphin likes to feed on crustaceans as well as along with the fish found at the bottom of the river. This dolphin diet includes 40-43 different kinda species of fish.


An interesting fact about amazon dolphins is that they remove flesh from spiny fishes, to reduce the chances of getting injured from sharp spines & that they don’t chew food. Instead of chewing they directly swallow them. Isn’t it cool!

What do Spinner Dolphins Eat?

Spinner Dolphin is likely to eat some jellyfish, krill, squid, small fish & snails without shells.

What does a Dusky Dolphin Eat?

A dusky dolphin eats squids, shrimps, various fish & tiny anchovies.

What do Rough-Toothed Eat?

Rough-toothed dolphins have a flexible diet & seem to like eating big fishes such as Dorado, houndfish, squids, octopuses, smelts & so on.

How much Food Dolphins can Consume:

Normally dolphins have the capability of consuming from several pounds to 500 pounds of food per day, whereas bottlenose dolphins can consume 2.5-5% of their body weight every day.

List of Dolphin Food:

Below is a list of types of food that dolphins like to eat:

· Anchovies:

Anchovies are a small silver/green colored fish used in pizzas or salads & are also a favorite food for some dolphins especially for rough-toothed & because of their smaller size they’re easily consumable.

· Squid:

Squids are the favorite dish of dolphins. Squids are less fatty invertebrates so that’s why most dolphins like to eat fish or other sea creatures to get proper energy to stay alive. But some can live by just feeding on squids.

· Tuna:

Tuna is also another loveable food for dolphins. Just like anchovies, tuna is also used in human food as well such as salads, sandwiches, pizzas & so on. Tuna usually helps to provide dolphins with a lot of benefits like high-level Omega-3. It not only helps in lowering cholesterol but also helps to prevent fat from heart arteries.

· Octopus:

Octopus, however, is a common food source for dolphins but is quite challenging to catch as octopuses seem to be very clever & in fact, some of them are naturally camouflaged too.

Octopuses usually don’t contain too much fat due to which dolphins need to eat more food to maintain energy levels. Also, octopuses are usually available during winter & spring when waters are cool.

It is also very important to note that octopus is still a dangerous meal for dolphins. No matter if either a dolphin removes its head, it still needs to handle those sucking tentacles of an octopus.

· Crustaceans:

There are currently several about 67,000 crustaceans available that are consumed by all types of world dolphins. Crustaceans are small sea or river animals like crabs, shrimps, lobsters, crayfish, krill, prawns, etc… & are the most sufficient meal for both dolphins & small fishes.

· Mullet:

Mullets known as ray-finned fish are found in coastal temperate, freshwater & tropical water regions. Mullets are the best food source for both dolphins & other large fishes. No doubt these are the most consumable & loving food of dolphins.

· Jellyfish:

Jellyfish are also like to eat by dolphins. Usually, all the types of dolphins like to eat jellyfish just like squids, shrimps & lobsters, etc. Though they’re also available in a larger amount they’re considered to be a good meal for dolphins.

· Planktons:

Planktons are usually available in rivers, ponds & below the surface of lakes. Many small dolphins love to eat planktons. Planktons often travel & live in large groups which makes it easier for dolphins to eat up all these tiny-little organisms.

Colors of Dolphins:

As dolphins have different species though they have different colors as well. The most frequently seen dolphin in the world contains a mixture of dark-whitish grey body color, whereas the bottlenose dolphin is a combination of grey color with a whitish belly.

Commerson’s dolphin contains a mixture of black & white body color just like orca has.

Amazon river dolphin is also known as a pink dolphin probably comes in all types of shades of pink i.e… from dull-grey pink to rosy pink & from rosy pink to bright pink color just like finches & this is because of the naturalness of water in which it lives. The darker the water would be, the pinker the color will be. And due to its pink color, it is also known as a unique dolphin among all the dolphin species.

Dusky dolphins have a body color of black, grey & blue with a whitish underbelly.

Striped dolphins also have a different body color which is dark blue.

Chinese/Baiji & Yangtze dolphins are of pale-blue grey color from the above & a bit lighter from the below.

Pan-tropical dolphins have a dark-grey body color on their backside while having a lighter grey to white color belly on either side of their body.

Maui’s dolphin is having a grey color with a white underbelly & different grey, black & white coloration markings on it.

Length of Dolphins:

Generally, the ordinary length of a medium-sized common dolphin is between 1.9-2.5m (6.2-8.2 ft) long & it weighs between 80-235 kg (176-518 lb) or mostly between 80-150 kg (180-330 lb). Whereas, the length of bottlenose dolphins varies between 4 meters (10-14feet) long & weighs between 150-650 kg (330-1,430 lb).

Amazon river dolphins’ length varies between 6.5-8.2 feet & 2.5 meters and it is considered to be the largest dolphin of all, while the smallest dolphin known as Maui’s dolphin has a length of about 5-1/2 ft & weight about over 100 lb at full maturity.

Maui’s dolphin is also known as an occasional dolphin in the world found near the coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

Life Cycle of Dolphins:

The estimated lifespan of dolphins is roughly 40 years & become sexually mature at the age of between 7-10 years which is in-case of females & for males, it is between the age of 7-13 years. The total gestation period is of about 10-11 months.

After every 2-3 years at the time of spring, dolphins give birth to their young ones in the form of a single calf or baby which’s having a length between 2-3 ft & weight between 20-25 pounds. The delivery process takes place while swimming & the calf is born in the fluke’s first position.

Dolphins usually feed their young ones through their mammary glands for the growth & health of their calves. They can drink milk after every 20 minutes to 24 hours per day.

Average speed of Dolphins:

Scientifically, dolphins can travel at the speed up to 29-64 kilometers (18-25 miles) & can jump up to 30 ft (9.1 m) per hour a day. Isn’t it awesome! Moreover, they are also considered to be the fastest sea mammal in the world & can hear up to 75-150,000 Hz (0.075-150 kHz).

Is Dolphin the most intelligent animal?

In this regard, studies show that just like humans, dolphins are the second most intelligent creature in the world. They contain very sharp & complex minds & can make plans & to cooperate at the time of hunting.

Dolphins are considered to be the most playful & creative sea creatures as they like to enjoy playing & working with their companions at the time of any injury or sickness of other dolphins or their group mates. These animals are very smart to make relationships with humans & are capable enough of solving problems.

How Dolphins Communicate:

Dolphins can communicate with one another by producing high-pitched sounds & whistles. These vocal pitches help & allow dolphins to understand their language in a better way & these pitches are very important for dolphins at the time of traveling in pods especially.

Echolocation is basically a biological sonar used by bats & dolphins to hear eco & to locate objects in their environment.

Dolphins also use echolocation to protect themselves from other dangerous creatures & to determine how far an object is, in which direction it is traveling, & how large it is.

These sonars are very important for dolphins especially when they’re traveling in pitch-black oceans to locate food & avoid threats.


Dolphin pods are basically called a group of dolphins or called schools of dolphins as dolphins are social creatures & they often travel together probably in dozens for mating, hunting & protection of each other.

Skin-Texture of Dolphin:

Dolphins are warm-blooded mammals & have streamlined bodies, with a sleek smooth rubbery skin without hair & feel soft to touch. Dolphins lack sweat glands & their outermost skin layer is 10-25 times thicker than that of other marine mammals.

It has a blowhole at the top of its head which helps in breathing underwater & a layer of blubber for insulation, to heal wounds & helps to survive attacks from the ocean predators easily.

The layer of blubber under their skin also helps to keep them warm & helps these creatures to become good swimmers. The blubber around the dolphin’s tail is a bit stiff but the blubber around their midsections is more flexible & helps to move their bodies smoothly & flexibly underwater.

Why the Skin of Dolphins is Smooth:

The reason to have smooth skin is just like human beings to protect their bodies from infections & further harm. But dolphins having smooth skin is likely due to the importance of hydrodynamics because they need to glide through the water with a little resistance.


How Long can a Dolphin Live?

Dolphin lifespan is usually up to 40 years but it depends from species to species as bottlenose age is a maximum of 40 whereas striped dolphins have ages ranging from 50-60.

How can you tell Dolphin’s age?

Just like the growth rings in a tree, dolphin age can be estimated by counting its teeth having an annual layer.

Who is the Oldest Dolphin of the World?

According to researcher Nicklo, a bottlenose dolphin was 66 years old when it was photographed in 2016.

Do Dolphins give Birth or Lay Eggs?

As dolphins are mammals, they don’t lay eggs but give birth to their young ones. Only birds & reptiles have the ability to lay eggs.

Are Dolphins afraid of Sharks?

Well not really. Dolphins aren’t afraid of sharks as they usually travel in pods. They sometimes kill sharks to protect themselves especially when the sharks try to become aggressive.

Is Dolphin an Intelligent Animal?

Yes, the dolphin is indeed the most intelligent animal among all. Dolphins’ are the most clever, intelligent, quick-learners, joyful, problem solving & playful sea creatures. Their IQ level is much higher than the other animals (5.3%). That’s the reason they’re known to be the second most intelligent creature in the world.

Do Dolphins Have Sharp Teeth?

They have a little bit 80-100 conical-like sharp teeth which help dolphins to grasp their food to swallow it directly instead of chewing them & if they lose one of their teeth, they’re unable to grow them back.

Are Dolphins Fish?

No, generally not. Dolphins are not fish, they’re mammals as they give birth to their younger ones & nurse them with milk. Moreover, dolphins don’t breathe through gills like fish; they often come up to the surface of the water to breathe through their blowholes which act as a nose for them.

How Long Do Dolphins Live in Confinement?

The average lifeline of dolphins in captivity is about 12 years as compared to the wild. But now over the past few decades, it was seen that dolphins living in aquariums have a longer life expectancy of about 28-29 years than the wild.


To protect dolphins from dying earlier we should have to be careful not to throw pollutants or rubbish into oceans & rivers. Dolphins in aquariums should be treated properly by providing them food on time & giving proper treatment during injuries so then they’ll be able to live long & healthy lives.

Also, Read this!
Are dolphins endangered
Do whales sleep
Do sharks eat dolphins

1. Lifetime
  1. Types
  2. What do Dolphins Eat
  3. List
  4. Colors
  5. Length
  6. Lifecycle
  7. Average Speed
  8. Intelligence
  9. Communication
  10. Skin-Texture
  11. Why Skin of Dolphin is smooth
  12. FAQS
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