I Know The Scientific Names Of Beings Animalculous

For the last few months my personal challenge was to memorize and list all 32-36 species of oceanic dolphin, all five species of freshwater dolphin, and all six species of true porpoise.

But perhaps I should back up a few squares first and relate a bit about the dolphin family tree. There are roughly eighty known species of whale on the planet. Dolphins are, incredibly, whales. They just happen to be small specialized ones.

The overall whale group of Cetacea is split into two parts – Odontocetes (toothed whales) and Mysticetes (baleen whales). As you might expect the Odontocete group is where you find the family Delphinidae, the ocean going dolphins. Its also home to the Phocoenidae (porpoises), the sperm whales (there are three species!), the narwhal and beluga, the beaked whales, and the three river dolphin families.

It looks a bit like this, and spelling errors are my own:

Odontocetes (toothed whales)

    Family Monodontidae (narwhals and beluga whales)
    Family Delphinidae (the ocean going dolphins)
    Family Ziphiidae (the beaked whales)
    Family Kogiidae (pygmy sperm and dwarf sperm whale)
    Family Physeteridae (sperm whale)
    Family Phocoenidae (true porpoises)
    Family Iniidae, Platanistidae, and Pontoporidae (river dolphins)

Mysticetes (baleen whales)

    Family Balaenidae (right and bowhead whales)
    Family Neobalaenidae (pygmy right whale)
    Family Balaenopteridae (rorqual whales like the blue and humpback)
    Family Eschrichtiidae (gray whale)

Learning all the dolphin, river dolphin, and porpoise species has been quite the difficult task! Hence my post of the Dolphin Communication Project’s awesome video that lists several species of dolphin. They do, very nearly, list them all, though there is quite the debate on which species within the family should be recognized and which should be considered subspecies.

One of my favorites: pilot whales. Of course even they breakdown into two species: longfin pilot whales and shortfin pilot whales.

And a good clip of the Australian snubfin:

Look for a follow up post where I challenge myself to name them all without looking at any references! (If nothing else its a good challenge just to be able to list this much taxonomy.. its been years since I took any tax courses!)


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