Written by Stephen Messenger, a Treehugger blogger
Researchers in Australia say they’ve made a remarkable discovery, identifying for one of the first times in over a hundred years a brand new species of dolphin. And, in addition to being the latest of its kind to be uncovered, this new type of dolphin, named Tursiops australis, is also among the rarest. So far, biologists have only found a handful of places along the coast of Australia where they exist — and there’s only thought to be around 150 of them in existence.
According to a report from the Hastings Leader, the recent discovery and classification of a new dolphin species was made by Kate Charlton-Robb, a faculty member of Monash University in Victoria. The animals had been noted previously, but were originally thought to be just bottlenose dolphins. After researchers made measurements of their skulls and compared their DNA, however, they soon learned that these dolphins represented an entirely new species.
And, as Charlton-Robb points out, that doesn’t happen very often.
“This is an incredibly fascinating discovery as there have only been three new dolphin species formally described and recognized since the late 1800s,” she told the Leader.
“What makes this even more exciting is this dolphin species has been living right under our noses, with only two known resident populations living in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria.”
While the discoveries of new species, such as Tursiops australis, are helping researchers better classify the rich biodiversity of local ecosystems, it also proves that when it comes to our understanding of the natural world, we may have only scratched the surface.
Meanwhile, Charlton-Robb plans on scouring the waters around Australia and Tasmania for more groups of this, the world’s newest species of dolphin.
For more on this story, visit The Hastings Leader
This post was originally published by Treehugger.
Photo from Bodhi Surf School via flickr creative commons