by Lucky Byfleet
Are dolphins whales? Yes. Dolphins are a type of whale…all dolphins are whales, but not all whales are dolphins…
There is no such thing as a stupid question, and our guides are happy to answer any you may have, but one of the top questions we get asked (after “Can a whale eat a human?”) is are dolphins whales.
Collectively whales, dolphins, and porpoises are part of the whale family. We call them cetaceans.
How do you pronounce cetacean? Suh-tay-shun.
These are water-based mammals evolved from land mammals. They have all the usual properties of mammals – like giving birth to live young, feeding them milk, and breathing air, plus several more properties like being fully aquatic, with a large paddle-like tail to propel them along.
Whales come in two types – according to how they eat, they either have teeth – so are toothed whales – or baleen plates – a filter-feeding system. Most really large whales like humpbacks and blue whales are baleen whales. The only giant toothed whales are sperm whales.
So dolphins are in the whale family but are technically toothed whales, however small they are. Interestingly, orca, also called killer whales, are actually a type of giant dolphin! They can be almost 10metres long!
Dolphins – toothed whales – have cone-shaped teeth. Porpoises – a cetacean that looks like a small fat dolphin have spade shape teeth, and baleen whales have no teeth at all, just baleen plates.
We hope that answered your question, ‘Are dolphins whales?’ if you want to learn more about cetaceans the Encyclopedia Britannica has a great article about them.