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What is a Group of Dolphins called? | Scientific Approach

Blog » Wildlife » What is a Group of Dolphins called? | Scientific Approach

If you are wondering what a group of dolphins is called, you’ve come to the right place! A group of dolphins is called a pod.

This name is not exclusive to dolphins, whale and porpoise groups also get called a pod. These cetaceans are sea mammals and are not fish, so these groups do not usually get the name school.

Although lots of older studies and articles will call a group of dolphins a school, this term is now outdated for cetaceans and is used less and less.

Dolphins are very social animals and the interactions in these groups are very diverse. How do these social groups work and what are the compositions of these pods? Find out in this article!

Social group

A pod of dolphins generally contains 10 – 30 dolphins. However, this number varies from species to species and is not a golden standard. Dolphin pods are fluid and the number of individuals in a group can change through the years. Some pods can even contain one hundred to several hundred dolphins.

Álvaro RP | A pod of striped dolphins in São Miguel What is a group of dolphins called?
Álvaro RP | A pod of striped dolphins in São Miguel

Different kinds of groups form, such as a nursery pod. This is a pod that exists mainly out of females with their young. These baby dolphins are called calves and will be cared for by the whole nursery pod. The baby dolphins form very strong bonds with their mothers and are almost inseparable. If they are male and reach maturity they may separate from the pod to find another group of females or even join up with other males.

Bachelor male groups are not uncommon. They usually consist of one to three males but they can grow bigger.

A pod of these mature males can start to dissolve the older the males get, although some males form such a strong bond that the pod of males only part when one of them dies.

The most common pods of dolphins are still the aggregations of males, females, and their calves. These group structures however can fluctuate and the dolphin pod can join up with other pods or split throughout its existence. Every species of dolphin has its own way of living which results in a wide variety of social groups and no pod of dolphins is the same!

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Different pods of dolphins can join up together to form a superpod.

These superpods can become so large that it consists of more than 3000 animals!

These superpods form around areas where there is an abundance of food and the ocean is deep and open. The cetaceans enjoy the large meals and new social interactions with these unfamiliar dolphin pods.

Roxane Rambert | A pod of striped dolphins traveling on the south coast of Pico island What is a group of dolphins called?
Roxane Rambert | A pod of striped dolphins traveling on the south coast of Pico island

Social behavior

Dolphins stay together in pods for several reasons. Social interaction is important for these animals as they gain multiple advantages through this. Complex social bonds form between these beautiful animals, these bonds however can be compared to human bonds but are still not fully understood.

Feeding groups are a prime example of a behavioral advantage. Because these dolphins form these pods, they can hunt together and have a better chance of getting a good meal. They make use of different hunting techniques such as bubble netting and hitting the fish with their tail.

Pods also form with a cause to mate and create the next generation. Dolphins do not only mate to reproduce but also for fun just like humans and certain primates such as bonobos.

A large pod has a bigger advantage towards attacks of predators. In groups, they can defend themselves better and it is harder to single out an individual as an easy target. Calves have a better chance of growing up because of the protection of their pod as normally they are an easy target. Single males are sometimes seen which makes them an easier target. These males may still join up with a pod or are in search of a new pod.

David Rodrigues | A pod of orcas in São Miguel island  What is a group of dolphins called?
David Rodrigues | A pod of orcas in São Miguel island

Orcas, or killer whales, have a very tight family bond. They stay together for almost their whole lives to hunt, socialize and even mate.

Pods in the Azores

Here in the Azores, we have some returning pods of dolphins. We can see these animals all year through, this means they are resident species. The Azores have four resident species: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins, Risso’s dolphins, and sperm whales. Within our resident species, we can recognize some individuals and pods through photo-identification! 

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Photo-identification is a good way to connect some dots. We photograph the dolphins and compare their characteristics, but most importantly we compare the dorsal fin. These dorsal fins are just like our fingerprints and are unique for every dolphin. 

Most of these pods can be seen with the same individuals for multiple years.

For example, there is a group of bottlenose dolphins that is very recognizable because of two very special dolphins. One has a triangular dorsal fin and is called Egyptian, the other doesn’t have a dorsal fin and is called Submarine. Egyptian and Submarine are inseparable and have been seen together for years!

Anxo Cao | Our well-known bottlenose dolphin called Egyptian
Anxo Cao | Our well-known bottlenose dolphin called Egyptian

These bottlenose dolphins are only one of the tons of examples of these tight social structures and there are more of these examples of different individuals in different species.


As you can see dolphins have very special bonds and interactions within these pods. They are very social and have evolved to work better in groups. 

Remember a group of dolphins is called a pod and these dolphins are very smart and form tight relationships!

Anxo Cao | A beautiful Atlantic spotted dolphin
Anxo Cao | A beautiful close up of an Atlantic spotted dolphin


A fun book for children on the topic of cetaceans and sea mammals in general: Whales & dolphins by DK publishing.


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Carwardine, M. (2020). Handbook of whales, dolphins, and porpoises of the world. Princeton University Press.

Cantor, M., & Whitehead, H. (2013). The interplay between social networks and culture: theoretically and among whales and dolphins. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 368(1618), 20120340.

Berta, A. (2015). Whales, dolphins & porpoises: A natural history and species guide.

Dolphin societies: Discoveries and puzzles. (1998). University of California Press.

Nat Geo WILD. (2016, November 1). A showy dolphin super-pod | destination WILD [Video]. YouTube.

Wells, R. S., Scott, M. D., & Irvine, A. B. (1987). The social structure of free-ranging bottlenose dolphins. In Current mammalogy (pp. 247-305). Springer, Boston, MA.

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John Downer Productions. (2013, December 30). Biggest ever dolphin superpod shot off coast Costa Rica [Video]. YouTube.

Gowans, S., Würsig, B., & Karczmarski, L. (2007). The social structure and strategies of delphinids: predictions based on an ecological framework. Advances in marine biology53, 195-294.

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