When we think of whales, we generally think of the bus-sized mammals that glide effortlessly through the water. From the leaping humpbacks that roam almost every ocean to the giant blue whale, these creatures have long captured our imagination. But while the great whales may be the most well-known, they are just a small part of the cetacean family. In fact, there are two distinct groups of whales – the toothed whales and the baleen whales – each with their own unique characteristics.
The toothed whales are the more diverse of the two groups, with around 70 different species ranging in size from the diminutive vaquita (Phocoena sinus), which measures just five feet in length, to the massive sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), which can grow up to 67 feet long.
Today though, we’ll feature 12 unique, toothed whales and porpoises that you need to know about, so read on and enjoy!
12 Types of Toothed Whales
Number 1 – Narwhal (Monodon monoceros)
- Average Length – 12 ft (3.7 m)
- Average Weight – 2700 lbs (1224.7 kg)
- Location – Arctic Ocean
Arguably one of the most iconic ‘toothed-whales’, the narwhal is easily recognizable thanks to its massive ‘tusk’, which can grow up to nine feet in length.
These creatures are relatively small compared to other whales, but they more than make up for it with their striking appearance and features.
Whilst they possess what’s commonly referred to as a tusk, it is actually just an overgrown tooth that projects out from the left side of their mouth.
Male narwhals use these tusks to joust with one another during mating season, and they are also thought to play a role in helping the animals break through ice.
Narwhals are creatures of the Arctic, and they are often seen close to the sea ice that forms around the North Pole.
These whales rely on the ice for hunting and breeding, so they are particularly vulnerable to climate change.
The name ‘narwhal’ means ‘corpse whale’ in Dutch, which is a reference to the animal’s mottled grey and white coloring.
Number 2 – Dall’s Porpoise (Phocoenoides dalli)
- Average Length – 6.5 ft (2 m)
- Average Weight – 300lbs (136 kg)
- Location – North Pacific Ocean
Named after American naturalist W.E. Dall, this small porpoise is one of the most common porpoises in the North Pacific Ocean.
Following that, this little black and white pocket rocket is one of the fastest cetaceans in the world, capable of reaching speeds of up to 35 miles per hour.
Though they’re known to be a speed-demon, they tend not to be too acrobatic in the ocean.
They’ve a distinct coloration, with a black back and sides that fade to a white belly.
They also have large white patches around their dorsal fins, which is thought to help other dolphins and porpoises spot them in the water.
Furthermore, Dall’s porpoises are found in the cold waters of the North Pacific Ocean, and they often travel in large pods of up to 100 individuals.
These creatures are not currently considered to be endangered, but they sometimes fall victims to by catch.
Number 3 – Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)
- Average Length – 4.5 ft (1.4 m)
- Average Weight – 102 lbs (46.3 kg)
- Location – Gulf of California (North)
One of the most critically endangered species on the planet, the vaquita is a small porpoise that is found only in the northern part of the Gulf of California.
There are thought to be fewer than 15 individuals remaining in the wild, and the species is teetering on the brink of extinction.
Vaquita translates to ‘little cow’ in Spanish, and these creatures certainly live up to their name. They are the smallest cetaceans in the world, measuring just four to five feet in length when fully grown.
They have dark gray or brown bodies with lighter gray patches around their mouths. Like other porpoises, they have a small, triangular dorsal fin.
Vaquitas are shy creatures that tend to stick to shallow waters. They are often found close to the shoreline, and they feed on a variety of small fish, squid and octopus.
Number 4 – Cuvier’s Beaked Whale (Ziphius cavirostris)
- Average Length – 20 ft (6.1 m)
- Average Weight – 5000 lbs (2268 kg)
- Location – Worldwide Tropical & Temperate Waters
This geese-beaked whale was discovered by French naturalist Georges Cuvier in the late 18th century, and it is one of the most widespread cetaceans in the world.
Cuvier’s beaked whales are found in tropical and temperate waters all over the globe, from Hawaii to Norway.
These creatures can grow up to 20 feet+ in length and they can weigh up to five metric tons.
They are dark gray or brown in color, with light-colored markings around their mouths. They have small dorsal fins, and their flippers are relatively short.
These whales are known to be one of the deepest diving mammals on the planet. They have been recorded swimming over three miles below the surface, and they can stay underwater for up to two hours at a time.
Cuvier’s beaked whales are generally shy and elusive creatures. They travel in small groups of around ten individuals, and are typically hard to spot due to their extensive time underwater.
Number 5 – Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas)
- Average Length – 15 ft (4.6 m)
- Average Weight – 2500 lbs (1134 kg)
- Location – Arctic Ocean
Number 5 on our list is the famous white whale. The beluga whale is easily recognizable thanks to this striking coloration. They use this as camouflage in the Arctic waters where they live.
In addition to their white coloration, belugas have a distinctive bulbous forehead (known as a ‘melon’). This melon is filled with a fatty substance that helps the whale to produce sounds.
Belugas are medium-sized whales, measuring between 12 and 20 feet in length when fully grown. They can weigh up to three metric tons.
Despite their size, these creatures are very graceful swimmers. They have long necks and small dorsal fins, and their flippers are stubby and paddle-shaped.
They’re very social creatures, and they often travel in groups of ten or more individuals. They are known to be vocal animals, and they can produce a variety of sounds that are used for communication.
Number 6 – Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides)
- Average Length – 6.6 ft (2 m)
- Average Weight – 132 lbs (59.9 kg)
- Location – Persian Gulf, Indonesia & Taiwan Strait
Though there are a few types of ‘finless porpoise’, here we’ll specifically discuss Neophocaena phocaenoides. This species is found in the waters of the Persian Gulf, Indonesia and Taiwan.
The finless porpoise is a smaller cetacean, measuring six to seven feet in length when fully grown. They weigh between 100 and 150 pounds.
The finless porpoise is dark gray or black in color, with a white underside. They have a small, triangular dorsal fin, and their flippers are very short.
These creatures are excellent swimmers, and they can often be seen ‘porpoising’ out of the water. This is when they jump out of the water and then dive back in headfirst.
They travel in small groups of around three to five individuals, and they are very shy creatures. They are not often seen by humans and will tend to distance themselves once they hear a boat or form of watercraft.
Number 7 – Gervais’ beaked whale (Mesoplodon europaeus)
- Average Length – 16.4 ft (5 m)
- Average Weight – 2400 lbs (1088.6 kg)
- Location – Northern Atlantic Ocean
Another one of the lesser-known toothed whales on our list is the Gervais’ beaked whale. They also go by the name of ‘Antillean beaked whale’, and they are found in the northern waters of the Atlantic Ocean.
They’ve small flippers and a small almost ‘shark-like’ dorsal fin . Their bodies are dark gray or dark bluish-black in color, with white markings around the mouth. These whales can grow to be 16 feet long and they weigh up to two metric tons.
They are shy creatures that travel in small groups of around six individuals. They aren’t often seen by humans, but when they are it’s usually just the females and calves.
Number 8 – Melon-headed Porpoise (Peponocephala electra)
- Average Length – 7 ft (2.1 m)
- Average Weight – 300 lbs (136.1 kg)
- Location – Subtropical Oceans
Though accurate, we can’t help but feel that the melon-headed porpoise has a less than flattering name. Their name comes from their small, round heads that are reminiscent of a melon.
Lucky for them they are also known as the ‘electric porpoise’, due to their unique ability to produce bio-electrical fields. This is used for communication and navigation.
These toothed whales are found in the sub-tropical oceans, and they grow to be around seven feet long when fully grown. They weigh between 200 and 400 pounds.
Flaunting a dark gray or black in color, with a white underside, they have a larger dorsal than most porpoises and their flippers are paddle-shaped.
They travel in groups of around 100 individuals, but these groups can often be split into smaller ‘sub-groups’. They are also known to be very vocal creatures, and they produce a variety of sounds for communication.
Number 9 – False Killer Whale (Pseudorca crassidens)
- Average Length – 16 ft (4.9 m)
- Average Weight – 2000 lbs (907.2 kg)
- Location – Tropical Oceans
This whale is given this unique name due to the fact that their skull resembles that of a killer whale. However, they are not related and they actually belong to the dolphin family.
False killer whales are all about family and friendship. They live in ‘pods’ that can be as large as 50 individuals, but they are usually around 20. These pods are very close-knit and have been known to stay together for years.
These toothed whales are found in the tropical waters of the world, and they grow to be 16 feet long on average. They weigh between one and two metric tons.
They are dark gray or black in color, with a white or light-colored ‘saddle’ around their midsection. Their dorsal and flippers are quite small in comparison to their body size.
These creatures are very curious by nature, and they will often approach boats and watercraft. They are also known to be very friendly and will often interact with humans in the water.
However it’s still important to remember that they are wild animals and caution should always be used.
Number 10 – Long-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas)
- Average Length – 15 ft (4.6 m)
- Average Weight – 3500 lbs (1587.6 kg)
- Location – North Atlantic Ocean
Another bulky, melon-headed whale is next on our list. The long-finned pilot whale is named for its, you guessed it, long fins. Their scientific name, Globicephala means ’round-headed whale’.
These whales are the definition of robust. Their body is thick and stocky, with a short neck and powerful tail. They grow to be around 15 feet long on average, but they can reach lengths of up to 20 feet. They weigh between two and three metric tons.
Like many we’ve already discussed, long-finned pilot ways are very social creatures. They live in ‘pods’ that can be as large as 100 individuals, but they are usually around 50. These pods will often split into smaller groups to forage for food.
They’re known to be incredibly noisy underwater. They produce a variety of sounds for communication, including clicks, whistles and screams.
Number 11 – Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)
- Average Length – 20 ft (6.1 m)
- Average Weight – 10,000 lbs (4536 kg)
- Location – All Oceans
One of everyone’s favorites comes in at number 11 on our list. Killer whales or orcas are named for their, well, murderous reputation. They are actually the largest member of the dolphin family.
Killer whales are very easy to identify thanks to their large size and distinctive coloration. They grow to be 20 feet long on average, with some individuals reaching lengths of up to 30 feet. Killer whales weigh between five and ten metric tons.
They are in many people’s eyes, the ultimate apex predator. The killer whale does not have any known natural predators and they sit at the very top of the food chain. They’ll strategize and work together as a team to take down their prey, which can include fish, sharks, seals and even other whales.
Killer whales have one of the most spectacular dorsal fins of all species. Males have a large, triangular dorsal fin that can be up to six feet tall. Females have a smaller, more curved dorsal fin. This dorsal can either be straight up and down, or it can be curved slightly to the whale’s left or right.
Number 12 – Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus)
- Average Length – 40 ft (12.2 m)
- Average Weight – 66,000 lbs (29,9937.1 kg)
- Location – All Oceans
Last but not least is the king of the depths – the sperm whale. Why such an odd name you say? Well, these creatures were once hunted for their valuable spermaceti oil. This oil was used in a variety of products, including cosmetics, machine lubrication and candles.
Sperm whales are the largest toothed whale on our list. They grow to be an impressive 40 feet long on average, with some individuals reaching lengths of up to 60 feet. They weigh a whopping 66,000 lbs!
Their massive size is thanks to their incredibly large head, which can be up to one-third of their body length. Additionally, this head houses the whale’s large brain, which is the largest of any known animal on Earth.
Sperm whales are known to the primary hunter of giant squid. These two creatures engage in epic battles, with the sperm whale winning more often than not.
Thanks to their deep diving activity, it’s often a mission to spot one of these giants. They can dive to depths of upwards of two miles in search of food. After resurfacing they can disappear again for more than 1 hour!
These whales are also popular in folklore and literature. The most famous sperm whale of all is probably Moby Dick from the Herman Melville novel of the same name.
So there you have it – 12 of the most fascinating toothed whales and porpoises. In conclusion, these creatures are some of the most majestic animals on Earth, and we hope this article has inspired you to learn more about them.
These are just a fraction of the many different types of whales and porpoises that exist in our oceans today, so be sure to check back for more articles like this in the future. Thanks for reading and let us know your feedback in the comments section below!