New species of dolphin found right under researchers’ noses

The World

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Melbourne’s harbor is the first known home of a new species of dolphin: the Tursiops Australis or “Burrunan dolphin.”

Kate Charlton-Robb and her colleagues at Monash University in Melbourne, studied dolphin skulls from a number of museums and conducted detailed analysis of DNA, and found that Tursiops Australis is clearly a different animal.

“These dolphins that are now a new species had characteristics of some of the common bottlenosed dolphins, but also, the Indo-Pacific bottlenosed dolphins — it had some characteristics of those,” Charlton-Robb explained. “But it also had some different characteristics that were not found in either of those two species.”

According Charlton-Robb, Tursiops Australis exhibits a unique tricoloration, stubbier nose, curved dorsal fin other visual distinctions.

There are about 150 “resident” Burrunan dolphins in Australia, to Charlton-Robb’s knowledge. She says more research is needed to find out if there are other populations in the area: “In order to protect them, we need to be able to continue the research and potentially see if there are other populations in this region that are sustainable.”

View video of the “Burrunan dolphin”:

Read more about Tursiops Australis on the National Geographic website.


PRI’s “The World” is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. “The World” is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More about The World.

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