White-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Lagenorhynchus albirostris is a toothed whale and can be recognised as such by the single blowhole and the presence of teeth. It is a member of the dolphin family with a characteristic prominent median notch in the flukes, a smooth crease-less throat and sharply pointed teeth. The white-beaked dolphin reaches up to 3.2 m in length. It has moderately long and slender flippers and small tail flukes. The dorsal fin is tall, large and located on the middle of the back. The head is smoothly sloping with a distinct but small snout. It has a complex, gradually changing colour pattern. The dorsal and lateral colouration is dark grey and the belly and beak are white. Wisp-like light grey colouration on the flanks with a light grey saddle.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found all around the British Isles, particularly off the coasts of Scotland and in the North Sea but also south-west Britain and western Ireland.

Global distribution



The white-beaked dolphin is an offshore species and prefers waters less than 200 m deep.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Slender body up to 3.2 m in length.
  • Tall, large dorsal fin located on the middle of the back.
  • Very deepened tail stock.
  • Gradually changing, wispy colouration dark grey above, white below with a light grey saddle are and lateral wisp.
  • No distinct black lines.
  • Beak is usually white.
  • Short slender flippers.
  • Gently sloping head with a short, thick beak.
  • Straight mouthline.

Additional information

White-beaked dolphins are usually found in large pods of up to several thousand individuals. Mixed schools with other species including Atlantic white-sided dolphins, Lagenorhynchus acutus, have been recorded. Their surface behaviour is typical of dolphins with acrobatic leaps and bow-riding are not uncommon. Dive duration is unknown (Kinze, 2002).


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  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. Jefferson, T.A., Leatherwood, S. & Webber, M.A., 1994. FAO species identification guide. Marine mammals of the world. Rome: United Nations Environment Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

  4. Kinze, C. C., 2002. Photographic Guide to the Marine Mammals of the North Atlantic. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. Reid. J.B., Evans. P.G.H., Northridge. S.P. (ed.), 2003. Atlas of Cetacean Distribution in North-west European Waters. Peterborough: Joint Nature Conservation Committee.


  1. Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records recorded over 15 years ago. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/h1ln5p accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Dumfries and Galloway Environmental Resources Centre, 2017. Mammal records for Dumfries and Galloway. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/oirkpx accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27

  3. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.ukl accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  4. Glasgow Museums BRC, 2017. Mammal records for Clyde Faunal Area, 1850 to 2007. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/fphygc accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  5. Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust, 2018. Visual sightings data set 2003-2017. Occurrence dataset: https://hwdt.org/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-27.

  6. John Muir Trust, 2017. Species Records for John Muir Trust Properties 2007-2009. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/p5lw5z accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  7. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  8. Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, 2017. NBIS Records to December 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jca5lo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  9. North East Scotland Biological Records Centre, 2017. NE Scotland marine mammal records 1800-2010. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/suphju accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  10. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-05-23

  11. Outer Hebrides Biological Recording, 2018. Vertebrates (except birds, INNS and restricted records), Outer Hebrides. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/dax3tf accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  12. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service., 2017. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (SBIS) Dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ab4vwo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  13. The Mammal Society., 2017. National Mammal Atlas Project, online recording. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/i2eosa accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  14. Whale and Dolphin Conservation, 2018. WDC Shorewatch Sightings. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/9vuieb accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Lagenorhynchus albirostris White-beaked dolphin. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 23-05-2024]. Available from: https://marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/117

Last Updated: 02/06/2008