New Finding Offers Hope for Critically Endangered Dolphin


Written by David DeFranza

According to recent surveys, there are only 55 adult and juvenile Maui’s dolphins left in the wild. Though they are protected, conservationists fear that the population of the critically endangered species is not large enough to support sustainable breeding. The problem is that with so few individuals, genetic diversity can suffer, leading to a weakened species more susceptible to birth defects and disease.

Another concern, explained Dr. Rochelle Constantine from the University of Auckland, is that “with such a dangerously low number of breeding females has been that the fertility of the population may be compromised, but our work shows that the number of pregnant females is within the expected range, which is encouraging.”

This good news was bolstered by another discovery: DNA analysis has revealed that two migrant Hector’s dolphins—a typically separate sub-species—have integrated and bred with Maui’s dolphins. This event—the first ever documented—suggests that the species has taken advantage of an opportunity to increase the diversity of its gene pool.

And analyzing tissues samples has provided insight into more than breeding habits; the next step for researchers is to use the samples to establish what times of fish the dolphins regularly feed on. With this feeding data, conservationists will be better able to protect prey populations for this troubled species.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


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Photo from Bodhi Surf School via flickr


Margie B.
Past Member 5 years ago

Happy news

nicola w.
Jane H5 years ago

I thought Hectors dolphins were also in trouble from gill netting ??

Carrie Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Katherine Wright
Katherine Wright5 years ago

I hope this mammal can be saved before it's too late................

Debbie L.
Debbie Lim6 years ago

Great :)

Ruth S.
Ruth C6 years ago

If we don't do something to help them now, soon, they will be gone forever!

KS Goh
KS Goh6 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Collette T.
Collette T6 years ago

I believe that if animals are given a chance they can make the right decisions to maintain their species.

Vivianne Mosca-Clark

great news....we are losing to many animals and other species.

Elizabeth M.
Elizabeth M6 years ago

Sure hope this helps to boost the population of the Maui dolphins.
Nature looks after itself!