Scientists examining a taxonomically confused group of marine mammals have officially named a species new to science: the Australian humpback dolphin, Sousa sahulensis, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society and Clymene Enterprises.
The study describing the newly named species is the culmination of a 17-year long systematic examination of all available historical records, physical descriptions, and genetic data of humpback dolphins—a widespread group of coastal cetaceans ranging from the coast of West Africa to the northern coast of Australia. The Australian humpback dolphin becomes the fourth recognized humpback dolphin species.
The study appears online today in the journal Marine Mammal Science, and will appear in the journal'sOctober edition. The authors are: Thomas A. Jefferson of Clymene Enterprises and Howard C. Rosenbaum of the Wildlife Conservation Society.
"We've finally managed to settle many long-standing questions about humpback dolphins—particularly how many species actually exist—using a huge body of data collected over two centuries and analyzed with the latest scientific tools," said Dr. Jefferson.
"The formal recognition and naming of a new species brings with it a need to formulate or update plans for protection of these dolphins," said Dr. Rosenbaum, Director of WCS's Ocean Giants Program. "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."