The white-beaked dolphin (Lagenorhynchus albirostris) and short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) are two of the most abundant delphinid species in shelf waters around the United Kingdom (UK) and Republic of Ireland (ROI) in the summer season (May–October). As these two species have similar habitat preferences and diets, it might be expected that they would partition their otherwise shared niche to reduce the potential for competition at this time of year. This study used 569 sightings of the two species, collected from shelf waters (<200 m water depth) in the summer season between 1983 and 1998, to investigate whether there is evidence of widespread niche partitioning based on water temperature in this area. Below 13°C, white-beaked dolphins were dominant with 96% of sightings comprising this species. In contrast, above 14°C, 86% of sightings comprised common dolphins. A classification tree analysis found that of the four eco-geographical variables analysed (water depth, seabed slope, seabed aspect and sea surface temperature), temperature was the most important variable for separating the occurrence of the two species. These results are consistent with widespread temperature-based niche partitioning between white-beaked and common dolphins in shelf waters around the UK and ROI. As temperature is important in determining the relative distribution of these species, the range of the white-beaked dolphin might be expected to contract in response to increasing sea temperature resulting from global climate change, while that of the common dolphin may expand.