Noteworthy naturalists such as Richard Owen (who coined the word "dinosaur"), Georges Cuvier, and Richard Lydekker have added to the literature on humpback dolphins over the centuries. In recent years, scientists have disagreed with one another about the number of species, with some considering all humpback dolphins the same species and others postulating as many as nine different ones.
The new study contains detailed reviews and descriptions of the currently recognized four humpback dolphin species, using external and skeletal measurements, coloration, molecular genetics, and geographic distribution. The study is the next step building upon recent studies that first detected the existence of a unique humpback dolphin species inhabiting the waters of northern Australia and the island of New Guinea, using genetics and morphological characters.
The Australian humpback dolphin species joins the current assemblage of three other closely related species: the Atlantic humpback dolphin (Sousa teuszii), the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis), and the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea). The new dolphin's scientific nameSousa sahulensisis derived from the Sahul Shelf, an underwater shelf stretching between northern Australia and southern New Guinea, where the Australian humpback dolphin occurs.
Aside from slight differences in overall length, number of teeth and vertebrae, and geographic distribution, the Australian humpback dolphin differs in appearance from the other three humpback species. Its dorsal fin is lower and more wide-based than the dorsal fins of Sousa teuszii and S. plumbea, and its coloration is dark gray, as opposed to the distinctly white (often with a pink tinge) coloration of its closest humpback neighbor, Sousa chinensis. The Australian humpback dolphin also possesses a
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Wildlife Conservation Society