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Snubfin Dolphin

Snubfin Dolphin The Australian Snubfin Dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni) is a recently recognised species of dolphin, scientifically described in 2005. It is closely related to the Irrawaddy dolphin/

(O. brevirostris), and closely resembles it. Until very recently they were thought to be Irrawaddy dolphins. However, the Australian snubfin is tri-coloured, while the Irrawaddy dolphin only has two colours on its skin. Also the skull and the fins show minor differences between the two species.

This newly described species is quiet rare and only seen very occasionaly. The Australian Snubfin is the first new dolphin species to be described in 56 years. Growing to a maximum length of about 2.8 meters, the Snubfin Dolphin feeds on fish and squid in river-mouths and near shore areas.

The Snubfin is rarely sighted because it is extremely shy and scared of boats. The best place to see the Snubfin Dolphin is around the Townsville Ross River mouth.

Until 2003, the Snubfin Dolphin was thought to be an Irrawaddy Dolphin. However in this year, dolphin researchers determined that the local populations of Irrawaddy's were a distinct species unique to Australian waters. Snubfin Dolphins hunt using low frequency sonar and this is potentially disturbed by noise from boats. Along with the Australia dugong if you manage to sight or photograph any of these rare animals , we at Sailing WHitsundays would love to hear about your encounter.

Quote from Wkipedia, The existence of snubfin dolphins in the waters of northern Australia had only become known in 1948, when a skull was found at Melville Bay (Gove Peninsula, Northern Territory). This individual apparently had been caught and eaten by aboriginals. However, the discovery remained unnoted until discussed by Johnson (1964), and soon thereafter a Dutch skipper had his observations of the then-unrecognized species published.

Two scientists, Isabel Beasley of James Cook University and Peter Arnold of Museum of Tropical Queensland, took DNA samples from the population of dolphins off the coast of Townsville, Queensland, and sent them to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. The results showed George Heinsohn was correct in his hypothesis that the Townsville population was a new species.

Snubfin dolphins have been seen in the Whitsundays and here at Sailing Whitsundays we would love to here about any additional reported sightings.

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