Vaquita Fact Sheet

Common Name:


Scientific Name:

Phocoena sinus

Wild Status:

critically endangered


Gulf of California




Life Span:

believed to be around 20 years


5 feet long, 100 pounds

Cool Facts:

The word "vaquita" is Spanish for "little cow." They are also known as the chochito and the gulf porpoise.   Vaquitas typically travel alone, sometimes in groups of up to three animals. Rarely are they seen in numbers larger than this, with the most sighted at one time being 40.   Porpoises are very similar to dolphins and many people confuse the two. Dolphins tend to be larger with leaner bodies than porpoises. Their dorsal fins are hooked rather than triangular, and they have beaklike rostrum full cone-shaped teeth. Porpoises lack a rostrum and have teeth shaped like spades.   Due to its incredibly low population the vaquita is at high risk of inbreeding, which may decrease the overall fitness of the species even if conservation efforts are successful.


The vaquita is the world's smallest porpoise, averaging around five feet in length and 100 pounds. They are endemic only to the Gulf of California, where they prefer the murky, nutrient-rich waters close to shore that attract the small fish, squid, and crustaceans they feed upon. Like all toothed whales, they rely on echolocation to hunt. Much of the natural history of the vaquita remains unknown, but it is believed to have a similar lifecycle to other porpoise species. Vaquitas seem to be less social than other porpoises and are the only porpoise known to inhabit warmer waters.

Taxonomic Breakdown:

Kingdom - Animalia Phylum - Chordata Class - Mammalia Order - Artiodactyla Family - Cetacea Genus - Phocoena Species - P. sinus

Conservation & Helping:

Sadly, the vaquita is considered the world's most endangered marine mammal and is on the verge of extinction. There are estimated to be as few as 100 individuals left. Unlike most endangered species the vaquita is not under threat due to direct persecution or habitat destruction, but because it is often accidentally caught as bycatch by fisherman using gillnets. Attempts to start a captive breeding program have unfortunately not been successful thus far.

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