Dolphinfish, Citron, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Dolphinfish: Everything You Need to Know About Coryphaena hippurus

What are Dolphinfish?

Dolphinfish (Coryphaena hippurus), also known as mahi-mahi or dorado, are a migratory pelagic fish species found in tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. They have garnered significant interest due to their vibrant coloration, rapid growth rate, and importance in commercial and recreational fisheries. This article delves into the dolphinfish’s biological and ecological characteristics, providing a scientific basis for understanding and conserving this remarkable species.

Taxonomy and Morphology

Dolphinfish are classified within the family Coryphaenidae, with only two recognized species: Coryphaena hippurus (common dolphinfish) and Coryphaena equiselis (pompano dolphinfish). The common dolphinfish is the primary focus of this article.

Adult dolphinfish display striking coloration, with males (bulls) exhibiting bright blue, green, and gold hues, while females (cows) tend to have a more subdued colour palette. Their elongated, laterally compressed bodies are well-suited for speed and agility, with a deeply forked caudal fin and a pronounced dorsal fin running the length of their body.

Distribution and Habitat

Dolphinfish inhabit the epipelagic zone, typically occupying surface waters with temperatures between 20-28°C (68-82°F). They have a global distribution, ranging from 45°N to 45°S in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. Dolphinfish are known to associate with floating objects such as sargassum seaweed, buoys, and other debris, providing shelter and a concentration of prey species.

Diet and Feeding

Dolphinfish are known for their high-speed pursuits, with their streamlined body allowing them to chase down and capture fast-swimming prey. As opportunistic predators, dolphinfish primarily feed on various fish and cephalopods. Their diet includes flying fish, squid, mackerel, and juvenile tuna.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Dolphinfish exhibit rapid growth rates and a short life span, typically reaching sexual maturity within their first year. They are prolific breeders, with females producing between 80,000 and one million eggs per spawn, depending on their size. Spawning occurs throughout the year in warm waters, peaking during the warmer months.

Larval dolphinfish are pelagic, drifting with ocean currents and relying on their yolk sac for initial nourishment. As they grow, they transition to a diet of zooplankton and eventually to larger prey items. The average life span of a dolphinfish is 3-5 years.

Ecological Role and Interactions

Dolphinfish are an important component of marine ecosystems, serving as predator and prey. They help regulate the population dynamics of their prey species and provide a food source for larger predators, such as sharks and billfish. Dolphinfish are also an essential part of the diet for various seabirds, such as boobies, terns, and frigatebirds.

Conservation and Management

Despite their rapid growth and high fecundity, dolphinfish populations can be vulnerable to overfishing and habitat degradation. The management of dolphinfish stocks is complicated by their migratory nature, wide distribution, and a lack of comprehensive population data.

Several management strategies have been proposed or implemented to ensure the sustainability of dolphinfish fisheries. These include catch limits, size restrictions, gear restrictions, and seasonal closures. Regional fishery management organizations (RFMOs) and local governments are responsible for monitoring and managing dolphinfish stocks within their jurisdictions.

Climate Change and Dolphinfish

Climate change poses a significant threat to dolphinfish populations, as rising ocean temperatures and changing oceanographic conditions can influence their distribution, spawning, and feeding behaviour. There is evidence that the distribution of dolphinfish is shifting towards higher latitudes, potentially affecting the structure and function of marine ecosystems in these regions. Additionally, increasing ocean acidification may impact the survival and growth of dolphinfish larvae.


Dolphinfish are a remarkable species with unique biological and ecological characteristics. Understanding their role in marine ecosystems, their life history traits, and the threats they face is crucial for implementing effective conservation and management strategies. By doing so, we can ensure the long-term sustainability of dolphinfish populations and preserve the ecological balance of the oceans they inhabit.


Are Dolphinfish Dolpins?

No, dolphinfish are not dolphins. While their common name might be confusing, dolphinfish is a species of fish scientifically known as Coryphaena hippurus. They are also commonly referred to as mahi-mahi or dorado.

When Doubled, a Dolphinfish…?

The answer to this common clue is Mahi-Mahi, one of the names dolphinfish are commonly known by.

Are Dolphinfish Fish or Mammals?

Although Dolpinfish has “dolphin” in their name, they are, in fact, fish, not mammals.

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