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Spectacled Porpoise (Phocoena dioptrica)


The spectacled porpoise (Phocoena dioptrica), is a rarely-seen cetacean, and one of seven porpoise species. Information about this species has been gathered primarily from dead specimens, many from the southern tip of South America.


The spectacled porpoise has striking, distinct pigmentation (see a great image here) - adults have a black back and white underside, while younger animals have a dark gray back and light gray underside. They have dark lips and a dark circle around their eye, which is surrounded by a lighter ring. Spectacled porpoises have a stocky body that grows to about 6 feet in length and perhaps 250 pounds. Spectacled porpoises have a large (sometimes extremely large in males), rounded dorsal fin, and small flukes and flippers.


Habitat and Distribution:

The spectacled porpoise is thought to live in cold, temperate, sub-Antarctic and Antarctic waters between South America and Antarctica. They have been sighted both far from land and inshore in estuaries. The species is known to occur off the southern coast of the eastern South America, and near offshore islands in the Southern Hemisphere. These animals are thought to live singly or in small groups. Sightings have included up to 3 individuals together.


Feeding behavior for the spectacled porpoise is not well known, but prey likely includes fish - porpoises whose stomach contents have been examined included anchovies. They likely also feed on squid and crustaceans.

These porpoises have spade-shaped teeth. They have up to 52 teeth on their upper jaw and 42 on the lower jaw.


Little is known about the reproductive habits of this species.


Spectacled porpoises are listed as "data deficient" on the IUCN Red List due to lack of information to make an assessment, as this species is so poorly known.

Threats to this porpoise species are not well-known, but there have been porpoises caught as bycatch in fishing gear, and they may be caught deliberately to be used as crab bait in southern Chile.

References and Further Information:

  • Hammond, P.S., Bearzi, G., Bjørge, A., Forney, K., Karczmarski, L., Kasuya, T., Perrin, W.F., Scott, M.D., Wang, J.Y., Wells, R.S. & Wilson, B. 2008. Phocoena dioptrica. In: IUCN 2012. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.2.
  • ETI BioInformatics. Spectacled porpoise (Australophocaena dioptrica). Marine Species Identification Portal. Accessed November 30, 2012.
  • OBIS-SEAMAP. Spectacled Porpoise - Phocoena dioptrica. Accessed November 30, 2012.
  • Perrin, W.F., Wursig, B., and J.G.M. Thewissen. 2002. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals. Academic Press.
  • SeaLifeBase. Phocoena spinipinnis. Accessed November 30, 2012.
  • WDC Species Guide. Spectacled Porpoise. Accessed November 30, 2012.
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