River Dolphin vs. Ocean Dolphin: Dolphin Comparison

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Difference between River Dolphin and Ocean Dolphin

All dolphins are beautiful creatures to see in their natural habitat, whether it be a river or an ocean. However, though both of these bodies of water are home to these dolphins, the dolphins that inhabit these are not exactly the same as each other. The main differences between river dolphins and those that are found in the ocean is decidedly their health, physical appearance and their eating habits. Of the approximately 42 species of dolphin, only 6 are classified as river dolphins.

River Dolphin
Ocean Dolphin

Health Differences

Most people often think that a dolphin is a dolphin. However, that is not true. Those dolphins that live in a river are going to have eyesight that is considerably weaker when compared to an ocean dolphin. This is because the river dolphin is going to have to put up with murkier water causing their eyesight diminishes over time. Because of the water quality, the ocean dolphin is going to be able to see much better since they are used to clear water free from mud and other material normally found in rivers. Another huge difference between them is their eating habits, which leads to different health needs such as the river dolphin need to survive off of many lesser quality food sources that an ocean dolphin would not touch.

Visual Differences

There are some differences regarding the visual appearance of the two dolphins. A river dolphin is going to have a much longer nose than dolphins that call the ocean home. This could be due to the fact that the river dolphin is going to have to poke around more for food. This is the main difference that clues people into whether the dolphin is belonging in the river or the ocean. On the other hand, ocean dolphins regularly use echolocation to find their food and since this is a powerful tool located within their frontal lobe, using echolocation in the rivers would be reduced.

Eating Habits

The eating habits of each dolphin differs quite a bit from their ocean cousins. The river dolphin is going to rely very much on river fish. However, they are also going to eat other things that are in the river. It is nothing for these dolphins to survive off of the moss that may float on the water and the foliage that grows at the bottom of the river. The ocean dolphin on the other hand is going to be eating the fish that are only dominant to the ocean water, such as fresh tuna, which is one of the ocean dolphin's favorite foods. Sometimes both of these dolphin species will eat the same fish when they meet where the river flows into the ocean. However, it is rare to find this happening since river dolphin are often found in slow moving rivers where the fish grow larger and the competition for such fish is much thinner.

Compare and Contrast

There are river dolphins and ocean dolphins that many people could confuse with one another due to their similar appearance, however, there are distinct differences between the two:

  • River dolphins have worse vision when compared to ocean dolphins because they are used to murkier waters. Due to eating habits, the river dolphin may not have the same quality of health as the ocean dolphin.
  • The nose of the river dolphin is going to be longer than that of the ocean dolphin.
  • Eating habits of these two dolphins differ since the river dolphin is going to be eating fish, plants and crustaceans that are dominant in the river environment, while ocean dolphins eat fish that are dominant in the ocean.


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