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Taxonomy is the scientific discipline used to define and group living things.  Taxonomy is constantly evolving as our knowledge grows and more is understood about different species, subspecies and populations. 

For example, developments in genetics and satellite tagging have recently led scientists to question long-held views on the gray whale population structure in the North Pacific

Taxonomy classifies whales, dolphins and porpoises as the Order of Cetacea (known commonly as cetaceans) and divides this group into two suborders:

  • Mysticeti (baleen whales or mysticetes – approximately 14 species)
  • Odontceti (toothed whales or odontocetes – approximately 75 species)

Within each of these suborders are individual groups or ‘families.’  Each species has a scientific name and a common name.  

Suborder Mysticeti (baleen whales or mysticetes)

Family Scientific name IWC (english) Common name

Family Balaenidae

Eubalaena australis

southern right whale


Eubalaena glacialis

North Atlantic right whale


Eubalaena japonica

North Pacific right whale


Balaena mysticetus 

bowhead whale, Greenland whale




Family Neobalaenidae

Caperea marginata

pygmy right whale




Family Eschrichtiidae

Eschrichtius robustus

gray whale




Family Balaenopteridae

Balaenoptera acutorostrata

common minke whale


Balaenoptera bonaerensis

Antarctic minke whale


Balaenoptera borealis

sei whale


Balaenoptera edeni

Bryde's whale


Balaenoptera musculus

blue whale


Balaenoptera physalus

fin whale


Balaenoptera omurai

Omura’s whale

Balaenoptera ricei 

Rice's whale


Megaptera novaeangliae

humpback whale

Suborder Odontoceti (toothed whales or odontocetes)

Family Scientific name IWC Common name




Family Physeteridae

Physeter macrocephalus

sperm whale




Family Kogiidae

Kogia breviceps

pygmy sperm whale


Kogia sima

dwarf sperm whale




Family Platanistidae

Platanista gangetica

Ganges river dolphin


Platanista minor

Indus river dolphin




Family Pontoporiidae

Pontoporia blainvillei



Family Lipotidae

Lipotes vexillifer

baiji - possibly extinct


Family Iniidae

Inia geoffrensis

Amazon river dolphin or boto




Family Monodontidae

Delphinapterus leucas

white whale or beluga


Monodon monoceros


Family Phocoenidae

Phocoena phocoena

harbour porpoise


Phocoena spinipinnis

Burmeister's porpoise


Phocoena sinus



Phocoena dioptrica

spectacled porpoise


Neophocaena phocaenoides

Indo-Pacific finless porpoise


Phocoenoides dalli

Dall's porpoise


Neophocaena asiaeorientalis

narrow-ridged finless porpoise




Family Delphinidae

Steno bredanensis

rough-toothed dolphin


Sousa chinensis

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin


Sousa plumbea

Indian Ocean humpback dolphin


Sousa sahulensis

Sahul dolphin


Sousa teuszii

Atlantic humpback dolphin


Sotalia fluviatilis


  Sotalia guianensis Guiana dolphin


Lagenorhynchus albirostris

white-beaked dolphin


Lagenorhynchus acutus

Atlantic white-sided dolphin


Lagenorhynchus obscurus

dusky dolphin


Lagenorhynchus obliquidens

Pacific white-sided dolphin


Lagenorhynchus cruciger

hourglass dolphin


Lagenorhynchus australis

Peale's dolphin


Grampus griseus

Risso's dolphin


Tursiops truncatus

Common bottlenose dolphin


Tursiops aduncus

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin


Stenella frontalis

Atlantic spotted dolphin


Stenella attenuata

pantropical spotted dolphin


Stenella longirostris

spinner dolphin


Stenella clymene

clymene dolphin


Stenella coeruleoalba

striped dolphin


Delphinus delphis

common dolphin


Lagenodelphis hosei

Fraser's dolphin


Lissodelphis borealis

northern right whale dolphin


Lissodelphis peronii

southern right whale dolphin


Cephalorhynchus commersonii

Commerson's dolphin


Cephalorhynchus eutropia

Chilean dolphin


Cephalorhynchus heavisidii

Heaviside's dolphin


Cephalorhynchus hectori

Hector's dolphin


Peponocephala electra

melon-headed whale


Feresa attenuata

pygmy killer whale


Pseudorca crassidens

false killer whale


Orcinus orca

killer whale or orca


Globicephala melas

long-finned pilot whale


Globicephala macrorhynchus

short-finned pilot whale


Orcaella brevirostris

Irrawaddy dolphin

  Orcaella heinsohni Australian snubfin dolphin

Family Ziphiidae

Tasmacetus shepherdi

Shepherd's beaked whale


Berardius bairdii

Baird's beaked whale


Berardius arnuxii

Arnoux's beaked whale


Berardius minimus 

Sato's beaked whale


Indopacetus pacificus

Longman's beaked whale


Mesoplodon bidens

Sowerby's beaked whale


Mesoplodon hotaula

Deraniyagala's beaked whale


Mesoplodon densirostris

Blainville's beaked whale


Mesoplodon eueu

Ramari's breaked whale


Mesoplodon europaeus

Gervais' beaked whale


Mesoplodon layardii

strap-toothed whale


Mesoplodon hectori

Hector's beaked whale


Mesoplodon grayi

Gray's beaked whale


Mesoplodon stejnegeri

Stejneger's beaked whale


Mesoplodon bowdoini

Andrews' beaked whale


Mesoplodon mirus

True's beaked whale


Mesoplodon ginkgodens

ginkgo-toothed beaked whale


Mesoplodon carlhubbsi

Hubbs' beaked whale

  Mesoplodon perrini Perrin's beaked whale


Mesoplodon peruvianus

pygmy beaked whale


Mesoplodon traversii

spade-toothed whale


Ziphius cavirostris

Cuvier's beaked whale


Hyperoodon ampullatus

northern bottlenose whale


Hyperoodon planifrons

southern bottlenose whale