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Chilean dolphin

Common names: 

English: Chilean dolphin

Spanish: Delfín chileno

German: Chilenischer (oder Weissbauch) Delfin


In southern Chile, Chilean dolphins (like Peale's dolphins)

are often called "toninas".


Scientific name: 

Cephalorhynchus eutropia



Length: 1.67 - 1.70 m 

Weight: 60 - 80 kg 


Habitat and distribution:

Chilean dolphins inhabit the cold and shallow coastal waters of Chile from Valparaiso (33°S), to Isla Navarino and Cape Horn (55°S).  Most sightings have been near shore, and therefore it is considered a coastal species. Their overall range spans several thousands of kilometers but the species' actual distribution is thought to be more patchy with specific areas being inhabited by local populations, such as in south-eastern Chiloé. Chilean dolphins seem to prefer sheltered bays and channels with freshwater input, often near river mouths, and with substantial tidal currents.



In the past, Chilean dolphins along with other small cetaceans were hunted extensively for bait, mainly in crab fisheries. Currently the main threats to the species are thought to be incidental entanglement in fishing gear and the exclusion from or alteration of important habitat due to intensive human activities such as aquaculture farming. Particularly coastal and intertidal set nets often used to catch escaped farmed salmon pose a real threat to Chilean dolphins which blunder into these nets when searching for prey. Reports also exist of Chilean dolphins becoming entangled (and drowning) in the anti-sealion nets placed around salmon farms. Chilean dolphins might approach fish farm nets to catch small wild fish that gather outside the salmon cages to feed on wasted salmon food. Salmon themselves appear too large to be on the menu for Chilean dolphins which take much smaller prey.


Suggested references:

- Goodall, R. N. P., K. S. Norris, A. R. Galeazzi, J. A. Oporto and I. S. Cameron (1988). On the Chilean Dolphin, Cephalorhynchus eutropia (Gray, 1846). Biology of the genus Cephalorhynchus. R. L. Brownell and G. P. Donovan. Cambridge, International Whaling Commission. Special Issue 9: 197-257.

- Heinrich S. (2006). Ecology of Chilean dolphins and Pale’s dolphins at Isla Chiloé, southern Chile. Ph. D. thesis. University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, UK. 

- Reeves, R.R., Crespo, E.A., Dans, S., Jefferson, T.A., Karczmarski, L., Laidre, K., O’Corry-Crowe, G., Pedraza, S., Rojas-Bracho, L., Secchi, E.R., Slooten, E., Smith, B.D., Wang, J.Y.. & Zhou, K. (2013). Cephalorhynchus eutropia. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.3. <>.

- Viddi, F.A., Harcourt, R.G., Hucke-Gaete, R. (2015). Identifying key habitats for the conservation of Chilean dolphins in the fjords of southern Chile. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, DOI: 10.1002/aqc.2553.

Underwater photo: © Cayetano Espinosa

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