Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, North American Mammals
Search the Archive

  Cetacea · Phocoenidae · Phocoena phocoena
   Smithsonian Institution
   Copyright Notice
   Privacy Notice
Phocoena phocoena

Harbor Porpoise

Order: Cetacea
Family: Phocoenidae

Image of Phocoena phocoena
Click to enlarge. (44 kb)

Conservation Status: Least Concern.

Large numbers of harbor porpoises are caught in fishing nets, because the porpoises feed on schooling fish such as herring and mackerel, in relatively shallow coastal waters. They are also affected by increasing pollution in coastal waters, and are considered vulnerable or threatened in many parts of their range. They are social, and feed in groups, working their way northward to spend the summer in cooler waters and back south as far as Los Angeles, in the Pacific, and the Carolinas or even Florida, in the Atlantic, for the winter. These small, stocky animals breed when they are 3-5 years old. Females nurse their calves for about 9 months. The stomachs of 4-5 month old juveniles killed in gillnets contained both milk and solid food, which indicates that they were beginning to feed themselves.

Also known as:
Common Porpoise, Puffing Pig

Sexual Dimorphism:
Females are 10%-20% larger than males.

Average: 1.6 m
Range: 1.5-1.9 m

Average: 50 kg
Range: 45-90 kg


Linnaeus, C., 1758.  Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classis, ordines, genera, species cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tenth Edition, Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm, 1:77, 824 pp.


Mammal Species of the World

Mammalian Species, American Society of Mammalogists' species account

Distribution of Phocoena phocoena

Image of Phocoena phocoena
Phocoena phocoena - lower (with Phocoenoides dalli)
Click to enlarge. (75kb)