The World Cetacea Database

The Cetacea (whales, dolphins and porpoises) currently include 86 species that inhabit the world's oceans, lakes and rivers. Some are cosmopolitan, occurring in marine waters from pole to pole, while others are restricted by ecology and population status to small ranges of a few thousand square kilometers or less. Some are exclusively marine, others are freshwater, and some are both.

The cetaceans arose deep in the artiodactyls (even-toed ungulates: cattle, sheep, antelopes, camels, pigs, etc.); their closest living relatives are the hippos. Formerly considered an order, they are now included in the Order Cetartiodactyla (cetaceans and their ungulate relatives). The taxonomic rank Cetacea should have (suborder, infraorder, or something else) is not yet agreed; more molecular phylogenetic research is needed.

Taxonomic coverage of the database is limited to the living species, although one of them, the baiji or Yangtze river dolphin is possibly now extinct. Coverage of taxa includes families, genera, subgenera, species and subspecies. Names covered include junior synonyms, unjustified emendations, suppressed names, misspellings and other non-operative names; this is to help deal with the older literature. The core of the World Cetacea Database (WCD) is derived from the World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS), which in turn is based on several taxonomic references (Wilson and Reeder's Mammal Species of the World; Rice's Marine Mammals of the World, Hershkovitz' Catalog of Living Whales, Perrin et al.'s Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, and others). It will be updated as changes occur and new taxa are described.

Please inform the editor, William Perrin of any omissions, typos, or errors you encounter. The editor is also happy to review and discuss other issues, such as synonymies, controversial taxonomic assignments, or broader classification questions and to initiate changes if they are warranted. All inquiries and discussion will be evaluated promptly but critically, and if deemed reasonable included quickly into the database.


Please cite the usage of the World Cetacea Database if you utilize taxonomic information in your publications. This supports the academic contributions of the author and recognizes the contribution of this database to the greater community, which are important facets to the ongoing growth and development of taxonomic knowledge.

If data are extracted from this website for secondary analysis resulting in a publication, the website should be cited as follows:

If any data constitutes a substantial proportion of the records used in secondary analyses (i.e. more than 25% of the data are derived from this source, or the data are essential to arrive at the conclusion of the analysis), the authors/managers of the database should be contacted. It may be useful to contact us directly in case there are additional data that may strengthen the analysis or there are features of the data that are important to consider but may not have been apparent from the metadata.

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