Risso’s dolphins are globally widely distributed and found in waters ranging from the tropics to temperate regions such as North Wales. They are thought to feed on creatures such as octopus and squid, mostly at night when their prey migrates towards the surface waters at the edges of steep drop-offs and deep trenches. They are easily recognised by their silvery grey tones and distinct white, linear scarring, accumulating over time to give the impression that they have been attacked by a paintbrush. This scarring is thought to be inflicted by their prey or by other Risso’s dolphins whilst playing and fighting – older individuals can appear almost white. Another distinctive feature which helps in identifying this species is its tall dorsal fin: one of the tallest in proportion to body length amongst any cetacean species (whale, dolphin or porpoise).
Although not much is known about these incredible creatures, North Wales provides some of the best places in the UK to see them. At this time of year, it’s well worth a trip down the Llŷn Peninsula to Bardsey Island; or try taking a look from the North Anglesey coast. It’s the complex seabed topography that allows them to exploit rich pickings of food. They are often seen rather lazily logging on the surface or travelling slowly with the tidal races which circle our coastline. On sunny days, it’s often the whiteness of their scarring glaring in the sun that catches your eye – but do also look out for big splashes as they land after impressive jumps above the surface!