Cetaceans and Marine Carnivores

This photo album contains several galleries; the first display images from the dolphin and whale families placed in Cetaceans. The second gallery features marine Carnivores such as fur seals and sea lions while a third gallery groups together a small selection of land and semiaquatic Carnivores. See the Taxonomy note at the end of this page.


Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) large pod at Kaikoura Pelagic in New Zealand

Dusky Dolphin, Pod

Photo showing a large pod of around fifty Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) at Kaikoura Pelagic in New Zealand.

Dolphins, including Killer Whales, Pilot Whales, and relatives, belong to the family Delphinidae. Furthermore, except for the endemic Burrunan dolphin, which is not IUCN listed, all displayed species ‘Least Concern’ ‘Red List 2020-2 refers’.

Bottlenose dolphins are temperate and tropical water cosmopolitan coastal species. The images are from a small pod bow-riding our boat in the Galápagos Islands.

Burrunan dolphin, an aboriginal name, is a new but controversial species of bottlenose dolphin found in 2011. It is a small dolphin not assessed for the IUCN Red List but locally assessed as endangered. There may be about 100 in Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne and another fifty in the coastal lakes of Gippsland, where I captured photos of them. One individual washed up dead on the shore within the Gippsland Lakes system, and a pod was swimming along with fur seals in the surf at Lakes Entrance.

Dusky dolphins are small dolphins that inhabit the cold coastal waters of the Southern Hemisphere. I photographed these agile and acrobatic dolphins on a couple of Kaikoura pelagic boat trips at New Zealand’s South Island. A fourth proposed subspecies Lagenorhynchus obscurus superciliosus, but not yet accepted.

False Killer Whale I photographed while diving close to our boat off the north coast of Santiago in the Galapagos.


Three families of whales feature in the gallery: Physeteridae (Sperm Whales), Balaenidae (Right and Bowhead Whales), and Balaenopteridae (Rorquals). Furthermore, except for the sperm whale ‘Red List 2020-2’ assessed as ‘Vulnerable’, all other species are ‘Least Concern’.

Sperm whales inhabit all the oceans and non-landlocked seas. They are giant whales and can live for over 60 years. I photographed these splendid mammals on a boat trip off the coast of Kaikoura in New Zealand’s South Island. These toothed whales stay at Kaikoura year-round, feeding on giant squid, which they hunt in the 3 Km deep Kaikoura Canyon that runs close to the coastline. At Kaikoura, they can dive to over 1000 metres and stay submerged for two hours.

Southern right whales (Eubalaena australis) inhabit the Southern Hemisphere. Breeding population concentrated near coastlines in the winter and the deep oceans in summer months as far down as Antarctica. These baleen whales skim feed on plankton, krill, and small crustaceans on the surface and subsurface.

Southern Right Whale Behaviours Gallery

I captured images of these aquatic mammals near the end of their breeding season at Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool, Victoria. Photos show several behaviours such as blowing water, a cow and calf feeding together near the beach and spy-hopping.

Southern right is a baleen whale that feeds by filtering food through baleen plates, which hang from each side of the upper jaws. Furthermore, they have triangular tail flukes, large, broad rectangular-shaped flippers/pectoral-fins, Also, a sizeable narrow head with a highly arched mouth and no dorsal fin. They can grow up to 17 m and weigh 100 tonnes, identified by the callosities (bonnet) on the rostrum (head) and chin. At birth, they are 4.5 m to 6 m long.

Common minke whale breaking the surface off the north coast of Fernandina Island in Galápagos. Minkes are baleen whales that filter feed on krill and schools of small fish. They have a worldwide distribution, being most abundant in cooler regions.

The whales in the two images are of different individuals. The two photos so different dorsal fin notches; one has front notches while the other has a rear notch. I photographed them at the same time and location. I thought I was photographing one individual, but it must have been two, with only one on the surface at a time.

Fur Seals and Sea Lions

Both featured sea lions and the Galápagos fur seal are ‘Red List 2020-2’ assessed as ‘Endangered’; All other species are ‘Least Concern’.

New Zealand [Hooker’s] sea lions are an endangered species endemic to New Zealand’s South Island. They inhabit the lower half of the East Coast, the South Coast, and islands in the Southern Ocean. The heavily built bulls weigh up to 410 Kg and are black or dark brown. Mature bulls have a mane of rough hair. Females are much smaller, about half the weight of bulls with silver-grey coats with cream abdomens.

I captured images of a magnificent bull hauled out at Pilots Beach on Otago Peninsula, a pup at Surat Bay Beach in Clutha and a cow at Waipapa Point also in Clutha.

Galápagos sea lions are an endemic and endangered species found chiefly on sandy beaches on all the Galápagos Islands. Males can weigh up to 250 kg, are brown, deep brown to grey, but black when wet. Females are lighter brown/tan and weigh about half that males.

Australian fur seals inhabit coastal waters in Southeast Australia and Tasmania. I photographed this subspecies at Gippsland Lakes. Photos show females and pups hauled on rocks at the Lakes Entrance channel, and bulls are swimming with Burrunan dolphins.

Females are silvery-grey with a creamy-yellow throat and chest with a chocolate brown belly, while the males are dark grey/brown have a mane of coarse hair on their neck and shoulders. The pups have almost black backs with grey/light-brown bellies. Adult males weigh up to 360 kg; females weigh about one-third of a male.

Galápagos fur seals are small, stocky, large-eyed endemics prefer rocky shorelines. Adult males weigh up to 64 kg, females about half that weight. Often found around the western islands of Fernandina, Isabela, and Santiago. I photographed a pup and a male on the latter two islands, respectively.

New Zealand Fur seals are a common resident species in New Zealand’s coastal waters and along the Southern Australian Coastline and Tasmania. I photographed them at several locations along the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island: At Oahu Point, north of Kaikoura, the seal colony is close to the main highway, so wonderful place to photograph them. The females haul out and sleep while the pups play in the rock pools.

New Zealand fur seals are deep brown on the back, lighter underneath and black when wet. Some individuals look silvery. Adult females have an average weight of 50 kg, while adult males weigh in at over three times that of females.

Cetaceans and Carnivores Taxonomy

The Mammals Photo Album webpage describes the higher-level taxonomy for featured families in superorder Laurasiatheria.

Cetaceans (Order Cetacea) splits into two suborders:
(a) Odontoceti (Toothed Whales) with one family: Delphinidae (Dolphins and relatives),
(b) Mysticeti (Baleen Whales) contains four families, species from three features in the photo album:
(i) Physeteridae (Sperm Whales),
(ii) Balaenidae (Right and Bowhead Whales),
(iii) Balaenopteridae (Rorquals).

Many authors consider the Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) a subspecies of Zalophus californianus (called Z. c. wollebaeki).

Marine Carnivores (Order Carnivora) comprise suborder Caniformia (Caniform Carnivores) with three families, including Otariidae (Fur Seals and Sea Lions) featured in the gallery.