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porpoise, small whale of the family Phocaenidae, allied to the dolphin. Porpoises, like other whales, are mammals; they are warm-blooded, breathe air, and give birth to live young, which they suckle with milk. They are distinguished from dolphins by their smaller size and their rounded, beakless heads. Porpoises are 4 to 6 ft (120–180 cm) long and are black above and white below. Traveling in schools, porpoises prey on fish, often pursuing them long distances up rivers.

The finned porpoises, species of the genus Phocoena, have a dorsal fin. They are distributed throughout the world and include the harbour, or common, porpoise, P. phocoena, found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The vaquita, P. sinus, found only in the N Gulf of California, Mexico, is the smallest and most endangered species. The finless porpoises, genus Neophocaena, are found in the Indian and W Pacific oceans and in the Chang (Yangtze) River.

The fat of the porpoise yields a lubricating oil, and the flesh is sometimes eaten. In North America the dolphins (family Delphinidae) are sometimes called porpoises and the bottle-nosed dolphin is sometimes called the common porpoise. True porpoises are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Cetacea, family Phocoenidae.


See W. N. Kellogg, Porpoises and Sonar (1961); K. S. Norris, ed., Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises (1966) and, as author, The Porpoise Watcher (1974); R. Ellis, Dolphins and Porpoises (1989).

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What does it mean when you dream about a porpoise?

See Dolphin.

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(vertebrate zoology)
Any of several species of marine mammals of the family Phocaenidae which have small flippers, a highly developed sonar system, and smooth, thick, hairless skin.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. any of various small cetacean mammals of the genus Phocaena and related genera, having a blunt snout and many teeth: family Delphinidae (or Phocaenidae)
2. any of various related cetaceans, esp the dolphin
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Nonetheless, necropsy and histopathology findings did not differ significantly from other published reports from harbor porpoises, including parasite infestation (e.g., [11, 12, 22, 39]).
Estimates had put the world-wide population at just 30 in 2016, but despite the Mexican government banning the gillnet, which causes the porpoises to be killed as a bycatch, illegal fishing has continued.
China's government estimates there were 1,012 wild Yangtze finless porpoises in 2017, compared to more than 1,800 giant pandas, which is no longer endangered.
The Tianezhou reserve, established in 1992, claims to be the world's first and only example of cetaceans -- which include dolphins and porpoises -- surviving and reproducing after relocation.
A NUMBER of dead porpoises have been found washed up on the North Wales coast.
An "unusual amount" of dead porpoises have washed up on the shores of north Wirral over the past week - and no one seems to know why.
They are the world's smallest porpoises, growing to about 5 feet long and weighing about 120 pounds.
We report on a large aggregation of Harbor Porpoises observed 26 January 2017, at the entrance to Howe Sound and Burrard Inlet, British Columbia (UTM Zone 10U, 479170.58 E, 5464343.98 N, WGS84) and near the Vancouver, British Columbia harbor.
To estimate the percentage of norovirus-infected harbor porpoises in our dataset, we extracted RNA from FFPE porpoise intestinal tissues collected from 48 animals during a 10-year period.