It was thought that the 150 or so dolphins that reside in the bay were Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) and short beaked Common dolphins (Delphinus delphis). The Dolphin Research Institute is pleased to announce that they have recognized a distinctive third species.
The dolphins, previously thought to be a subspecies of the Bottlenose dolphin are a distinctly different species, or newly identified as such due to the "skull morphology and the DNA" says Dolphin Researcher, Kate Charlton-Robb, when asked by ABC news. New technology has enabled researchers to distinguish the unique skeletal and DNA differences that they may not have been able to in the past.
The newly recognized resident dolphins are black on top, grey underneath, white around their eyes and are slightly smaller than other species found in the Bay. Researchers say that you should be able to distinguish them easily from the Bottlenose dolphins.
When interviewed by ABC AM, Ms Charlton-Robb said that the new species has been named "Tersiops Australis and with the common name of the boanan (phonetic) following Aboriginal narrative meaning large fish of the porpoise kind. "
Tersiops Australis resides in Port Phillip Bay, Gippsland Lakes, coastal regions and can be found as far south as Tasmania and across in South Australia.
Kate Charlton-Robb is currently finishing her PhD studies on the genetic make-up of the 'bottlenose' dolphin populations of the bay at Monash University.
If you get the opportunity to see dolphins in the bay, report your sightings of dolphins to the Dolphin Research Institute. If you haven't seen them and would like to discover the joy of seeing wild dolphins that live locally, there are a couple of dolphin swim companies including Moonraker and Polperro which provide a great fun way to interact with these wonderful residents.