AsianScientist (Sep. 15, 2011) – Recognized as one of the most intelligent marine mammals, dolphins are well loved by many for their inquisitive and playful nature. Following the discovery of a new dolphin species in Victoria, they may just find themselves even more fans in Australia.
The new species was discovered by Kate Charlton-Robb, a Ph.D. researcher in the School of Biological Sciences, and is reported in the latest issue of the journal PLoS ONE.
Originally, thought to be one of the two recognized bottlenose dolphin species, the dolphins were later found to be unique by comparing skulls, external characteristics, and a number of DNA regions from the current day population as well as specimens dating back to the early 1900s.
More research is required to determine if there are other resident populations of this species in Australia.
The dolphins were formally named Tursiops australis with the common name, the Burrunan dolphin, being an Australian aboriginal name given to dolphins in the Boonwurrung, Woiwurrung, and Taungurung languages, meaning ‘large sea fish of the porpoise kind.’
“This is an incredibly fascinating discovery as there have only been three new dolphin species formally described and recognized since the late 1800s,” said Ms. Charlton-Robb.
“What makes this even more exciting is this dolphin species has been living right under our noses, with only two known resident populations living in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria.”
Ms. Charlton-Robb hopes that the Burrunan dolphins are conserved and protected for future generations.
“We know these unique dolphins are restricted to a very small region of the world, in addition the resident populations are very small with only approximately 100 dolphins in Port Phillip Bay and 50 in the Gippsland Lakes,” she said.
“This study highlights the importance of taking a more holistic approach of using multiple analyses, rather than looking in isolation of one scientific methodology. Even though we have progressed a long way in science, this study shows there are still new and exciting discoveries to be made,” she added.
The article can be found at: Charlton-Robb K et al. (2011) A New Dolphin Species, the Burrunan Dolphin Tursiops australis sp. nov., Endemic to Southern Australian Coastal Waters.
Source: Monash University.
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