5-Minute Crafts
5-Minute Crafts

What the Difference Between Dolphins, Orcas, and Beluga Whales Is

Dolphins, orcas, and beluga whales look alike due to their belonging to the same infraorder of Cetacea. However, there are significant differences between them that we are going to tell about in this article

5-Minute Crafts is explaining what the difference between dolphins, orcas, and beluga whales is.


Dolphin is a common name for aquatic mammals within the infraorder Cetacea. There are about 40 species of dolphins that belong to different families.

For example, the well-known common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), and dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) belong to the Delphinidae family. Their representatives live exclusively in marine waters. River dolphins belong to different families. Thus, the family of South Asian river dolphins includes the Ganges river dolphin (Platanista gangetica) and the Indus river dolphin (Platanista minor) who live in the rivers of India. In South America, we can find the representatives of Amazon river dolphins (Inia geoffrensis) who also live in freshwater.

As a rule, dolphins have extended streamlined bodies and 2 limbs transformed into flippers. Their size and weight vary from a 5 ft 7 in and 110-pound Maui’s dolphin to the 31 ft 2 in and 11-short-ton orca. They can reach the speed of 18 miles per hour and leap about 30 feet. Dolphins have well-developed hearing both on land and underwater, and representatives of some species can dive to great depths.

Dolphins are hunters. Mostly they feed on other sea creatures. Small dolphins feed mainly on fish and squid, while large ones, such as killer whales, feed on mammals like seals.


Orcas (Orcinus orca) are toothed whales that belong to the oceanic dolphin family and that are the biggest members of it. On average, orca males are as long as 20 to 26 ft and weigh about 6.6 short tons, while orca females reach the length of 16 to 23 ft and weigh about 3.3 to 4.4 short tons. In addition to their large size, orcas are also easily recognizable by their black and white pattern.

Orcas live in all world oceans and in a variety of marine environments, from Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas. They only don’t inhabit the Baltic and Black seas, and some areas of the Arctic Ocean.

Orcas are the only predators among dolphins who hunt for other sea mammals. Though individual populations feed exclusively on fish, still the favorite treat of orcas are seals, small whales, and other types of dolphins.

Beluga whale

Beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) are toothed whales. They look like dolphins and belong to the same infraorder Cetacea, however, they belong to a different family Monodontidae.

It’s easy to recognize Beluga whales by their white-grayish coloring. Calves are usually born grey, and by the time they turn 1 month, they become dark-gray or grayish-blue. After, they gradually start to lose pigmentations until they get the distinctive white coloring at the age of 7 (in females) and at the age of 9 (in males).

Beluga whales live exclusively in Arctic waters, and their coloration is an adaptation to life in the Arctic. It allows beluga whales to camouflage themselves in polar ice caps to protect themselves from their main enemies: polar bears and killer whales.

Unlike other cetaceans, beluga whales have seasonal shedding of their skin. Their epidermis thickens in winter and the animal’s skin might become yellowish, mostly on the back and fins. In summer, when belugas migrate to estuaries, they rub their bodies on the gravel of the riverbeds to remove the cutaneous covering and get back their usual white coloring.

Preview photo credit Pixabay.com, Pixabay.com, Pixabay.com
5-Minute Crafts/Animals/What the Difference Between Dolphins, Orcas, and Beluga Whales Is
Share This Article
You may like these articles