Sharp beak

★ Pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata)

Another Stenella dolphin, and one of my favourites: the pantropical spotted dolphin. Their specific name, attenuata, is Latin for diminutive, reduced, slight, or tapered. It is a name they share with the pygmy killer whale (Feresa attenuata). It seems their name was the result of a slight misunderstanding, for combined with Stenella (Latin for narrow, referring to the long beaks of the dolphins in this genus) ‘attenuata’ would mean pantropicals have small, or simple rostra. Which is strange, given their long beaks. John Edward Gray, the zoologist who named the species, probably thought attenuata meant sharp, instead of tapered, as he referred to the species as the ‘sharp-beaked dolphin’. This would make a lot more sense, since pantropical spotted dolphin skulls show quite sharp-tipped beaks indeed.

The individual in this painting is a juvenile. Like all spotted dolphins they are born without spots, slowly acquiring black and white ones with age. How many spots they may end up with depends on where they come from; different populations are marked with different amounts and patterns. The coastal animals off the Eastern Tropical Pacific are probably the most heavily spotted of all.

– Digital