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Taxonomy: classification of Cetacea
(whales, dolphins and porpoises)

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 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 family has a scientific name and a common name.  


Suborder Mysticeti (baleen whales or mysticetes)
Family Scientific name IWC 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

 

Megaptera novaeangliae

humpback whale

 

 

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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 gangetica

South Asian river dolphin

 

 

 

Family Pontoporiidae

Pontoporia blainvillei

franciscana

     

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

narwhal

Family Phocoenidae

Phocoena phocoena

harbour porpoise

 

Phocoena spinipinnis

Burmeister's porpoise

 

Phocoena sinus

vaquita

 

Phocoena dioptrica

spectacled porpoise

 

Neophocaena phocaenoides

Indo-Pacific finless porpoise

 

Phocoenoides dalli

Neophocaena asiaeorientalis

Dall's porpoise

 

narrow-ridged finless porpoise

 

 

 

Family Delphinidae

Steno bredanensis

rough-toothed dolphin

 

Sousa chinensis

Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin

 

Sousa teuszii

 

Sousa plumbea

 

Sousa sahulensis

Atlantic humpback dolphin

 

Indian Ocean humpback dolphin

 

Australian humpback dolphin

 

Sotalia fluviatilis

tucuxi

  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

 

Indopacetus pacificus

Longman's beaked whale

 

Mesoplodon bidens

 

Mesoplodon hotaula

Sowerby's beaked whale

 

Deraniyagala's beaked whale

 

Mesoplodon densirostris

Blainville's beaked 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

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