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New Species of Dolphin Identified

By Matt Lind, July 2014

Photo credit: R.L Pitman. The Australian humpback dolphin finally has a scientific name, Sousa sahulensis.
The journal of Marine Mammal Science has just announced the identification of a new species of dolphin that lives off Australia.
The Sousa sahulensis or Australian humpback dolphin has been recognized as a different species to the four other Sousa dolphins based on a review of research completed by Jefferson and Rosembaum.  The Australian humpback differs from its cousins in its slightly darker colouration and lower dorsal fin.  The dolphin is distributed along the Northern coast of Australia to New Guinea along the Sahul Shelf for which it is named.  The border in habitat between the Australian and Indo-Pacific humpbacks occurs along the Wallace Line that separates the Asian and Australian eco-zones (monkeys on one side and marsupials on the other).
Too often when species are ‘split’ one of them becomes endangered and that is definitely the case with S sahulensis.  Rosenbaum says ‘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.”  It’s hard not to draw similarities with our own Maui and Hectors dolphins.