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Rough-Toothed Dolphins

When we encounter rough-toothed dolphins, it’s usually on one of our Niihau boat tours, as these creatures prefer deep waters and in fact, rarely hang out in less than 3,000 feet.

One way to identify this relatively large dolphin species is by their slender, conical-shaped head, gently sloping rostrum (beak), and large pectoral fins. Another is the splotchy whiteish/pinkish pigmentation patterns on their mouths and underside that remain unchanged throughout their lives, like a fingerprint. And of course, as the name implies, rough-toothed dolphins have jagged teeth with numerous irregular ridges and a distinct jawline.

Rough-toothed dolphins don’t usually “bow-ride” along with boats like spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins, but they do like to skim along the surface, with just their heads and chins above the water’s surface.

It’s typical to come across groups of three to ten rough-toothed dolphins at a time, but we’ve spotted pods of more than one hundred off the coast of Niihau. Seems rough-toothed dolphins aren’t at all “Forbidden” in that area!

Small numbers of rough-toothed dolphins are harpooned by Japanese whalers and occasionally they get caught in seine nets trawling for tuna, but the refreshing news is that, unlike so many other animal species, their population doesn’t seem to be meaningfully threatened by human activity.

Killer whales and sharks are the biggest, baddest predators in this case!