Make your own free website on
General Information
Main Page




Getting Involved
Discussion Forum

Suborder Odontoceti

Bottlenose Dolphin - An Odontoceti Whale
Image © SeaWorld, Inc. and used with permission

     Animals belonging to the suborder Odontoceti include the oceanic dolphins, porpoises, river dolphins, beaked whales, belugas, narwhals, sperm whales, and other toothed whales. These animals share the same general characteristics. One main characteristic is that, unlike members of the suborder Mysticeti, the odontocetes possess true teeth. These teeth can range from conical to spade shaped to sickle shaped. Most odontocetes, particularly those in the family Delphinidae, are sleek and fast moving. These animals are usually smaller and more agile than the mysticetes. The largest odontoceti whale is the sperm whale, which is one of the ocean's most powerful hunters. The smallest member is the black porpoise, a tiny and shy cetacean of only about three to four feet long.

     The family of Delphinidae is one of the most common and easily recognized. This family contains all the 'oceanic dolphins'. This includes the killer whale (Orcinus orca) and the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). These animals are sleek and fast moving, efficent hunters and often skilled in aerial behaviors. It is this family of cetaceans which is most easily recognized. Followin are several pictures of animals from this family. From top to bottom, they include: A Killer Whale (Orcinus orca), most likely a male. A Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis). A Pacific White-Sided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens), which is often called simply a 'Lag'. A Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris). And a Striped Dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba).

Killer Whale
Image from U.S. Government

Common Dolphin
Image from U.S. Government

Pacific White-Sided Dolphin
Image from U.S. Government

Spinner Dolphin
Image from U.S. Government

Striped Dolphin
Image from U.S. Government

     The family of Monodontidae contains only two species; the beluga whale and the narwhal. These animals live in the cold waters of the arctic and are slower moving and less agile than most other odontocetes. These two species each have very unique features. The Beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is one of the few cetaeceans which is entirely white. The animals, however, are born dark grey and turn white with age. The Narwhal (Monodon monoceros) has its own very unique feature. The males of this species have an extremely large tooth, elogonated and twisted to protrude far outside of the mouth. In the past, this animal has been mistaken for a unicorn, absurd as it may seem. The following images are of a Beluga whale (top) and several Narwhals (bottom).

Beluga Whale
Image from U.S. Government


     Another major family of the odontoceti suborder is Physeteridae. This family includes the enormous Sperm Whale which can grow up to 65 feet in length! It is this species which is portrayed in the classic novel, Moby Dick. Also in this family are the pygmy and false sperm whales. These animals are far smaller and bear only slight resemblence to the actual Sperm Whale. Pictured below is a Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) seen close and focusing on the head.

Sperm Whale
Image from U.S. Government