When I did a research, most of the sources say that orca is one of the fastest. But I could not find a source that says it is actually the fastest.

Some sources say that Dall's porpoises rival orcas in speed. And there are other kinds of porpoises and dolphins that comes into question.

Is there any scientific research with measurements? Or does anyone have any detailed knowledge about this topic?

(Also it would be nice to know top 10 fastest marine mammals, so the question becomes: what are the fastest marine mammals?)

Note: This scientific research might be difficult to conduct also so you can explain the situation as well.


3 Answers 3


This article by R. Aiden Martin doesn't have citations, but is a great read with a lot of detail on observations and mechanics of animals moving in water. If you trust the numbers the author gives, the top 10 marine mammals in terms of speed (in mph = 1.6 km/h) are:

Dall's Porpoise (Phocaenoides dalli), leaping 34.5 mph

Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) 34.5 mph

Shortfin Pilot Whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) 30.4 mph

Blue Whale (Balaenopterus musculus) 29.76 mph

Fin Whale (Balaenoptera physalus) 25.42 mph

California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) 25 mph

Pacific Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata) 24.7 mph

Common Dolphin (Delphinus delphis) 23.6 mph

Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) 17 mph

Pacific Whitesided Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens) 17 mph

As noted in the article, higher estimates of speed for, for instance, the common dolphin may be in fact records of them 'surfing' on the bow wave of boats (not propelling themselves through the water).

  • $\begingroup$ It's interesting that the common dolphin is 23.6mp/h here, and 39mp/h in @jarlemag's answer. I have a feeling the fastest marine mammal might depend on who is the observer and how the measurement is made! $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Jul 11, 2016 at 9:40

According to the MarineBio conservation society, the fastest marine mammal is the Common Dolphin, with a top speed of 64 km/h. That places it just above the Zebra on the Wikipedia list of fastest mammals. (I wasn't able to find a primary source for this immediately, so take it with a pinch of salt.)

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks. I don't know how I missed that. It would be nice to find out top 10 also. $\endgroup$
    – ermanen
    Commented Mar 14, 2014 at 18:26
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting factoid! Incidentally this is dwarfed by the fastest fish. The sail fish for example can get up to 110km/h! $\endgroup$
    – James
    Commented Jul 9, 2016 at 16:32

Dall's porpoise and orca are the two fastest cetacean species (whales, dolphins, and porpoise), but Dall's porpoise reach those speeds during shorter sprints while orca can sustain those speeds over longer durations. Dall's porpoise are known for their "rooster tail" splash as they sprint to approach a ship to bow-ride. The speeds provided by Oreotrephes look reliable as they are similar to speeds described in the Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals (Editors W.F. Perrin, B. Wursig, J.G.M. Thewissen, 2002). Some of the speed research on smaller dolphins comes from systematic studies of trained dolphins while values for wild animals come from radio-tagged animals, theodolite tracking, or measurements of boat speeds for ships traveling at a similar speed to whales.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Hi and welcome to Bio.SE. Thanks for posting. However, please provide support/citations for your claims. Unsupported posts (or posts mentioning but not fully citing sources) come across as opinions and are best reserved for comments. We have high expectations of good answers on this site to help avoid the spread of misinformation. Please consider revising your answer to provide some sort of support to attract more positive attention and to better (and more accurately) inform our future visitors. Thanks! $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 10, 2018 at 23:33

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