A team of scientists says it has found a new species of dolphin swimming off the northern coast of Australia.
The dolphin, a member of the humpback family, isn’t exactly new to science – researchers have known about the population for years – but it is newly described by science. In fact, it is so new it doesn’t have a name.
Humpback dolphins are wide-ranging but have not been well studied. They have a tell-tale bump in front of their dorsal fin and prefer coastal waters, such as estuaries and deltas. They can grow to 8 feet, and their color ranges from dark gray to pink or even white. Scientists believe they eat mullet and other fish.
For more than a decade, a debate has raged about how many species of humpback dolphins exist. Some scientists said two – the Atlantic humpback and the Indo-Pacific humpback. Others thought the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin was actually two separate species.
Recently, Dr. Martin Mendez, assistant director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Latin America and Caribbean Program, and Howard Rosenbaum, director of the society’s Ocean Giants Program, decided to see whether they could shed new light on the question. Together, they collected hundreds of samples of humpback dolphins to compare genetic and morphological characteristics among geographic populations.