Here’s a new addition to the dolphin family

You may be familiar with humpback whales. Now meet the humpback dolphins!

Scientists examining a taxonomically confused group of marine mammals have officially named a species new to science: the Australian humpback dolphin ( Sousa sahulensis).

It is one of four recognised species of humpback dolphins. It is gray in colour and has a characteristic “cape” pattern on its back.

The Australian humpback is a widespread group of coastal cetaceans ranging from the coast of West Africa to the northern coast of Australia.

“The formal recognition and naming of a new species brings with it a need to formulate or update plans for its protection,” said Dr. Howard C. Rosenbaum, Director of Wildlife Conservation Society’s Ocean Giants Programme.

“Humpback dolphins throughout their range are threatened with fisheries interactions, vessel impacts, and development in their coastal habitats. Efforts to protect humpback dolphins and other coastal dolphins, and their most important habitats are essential for the survival of these species,” said Rosenbaum.

The humpback dolphins in particular have vexed researchers and taxonomists for decades. In recent years, scientists have disagreed with one another about the number of species, with some considering all humpback dolphins the same species and others postulating as many as nine different ones.

The new study, published in the Marine Mammal Science journal, contains detailed reviews and descriptions of the currently recognised four humpback dolphin species. They are: the Australian humpback, the Atlantic humpback dolphin ( Sousa teuszii), the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin ( Sousa chinensis), and the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin ( Sousa plumbea).

The new dolphin’s scientific name is derived from the Sahul Shelf, an underwater shelf stretching between northern Australia and southern New Guinea, where the Australian humpback dolphin is found.

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Printable version | Apr 19, 2021 11:31:22 AM |

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