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Dolphin - Australian Snubfin Dolphin

Updated on February 1, 2015
Source
Figure 1: Size Comparison of an Average Human Against the Snubfin Dolphin
Figure 1: Size Comparison of an Average Human Against the Snubfin Dolphin | Source
Figure 2: Size Comparison of an Average Human Against the Bottlenose Dolphin
Figure 2: Size Comparison of an Average Human Against the Bottlenose Dolphin | Source

These images are provided as a comparison between the common bottlenose dolphin, a human, and a snubfin dolphin.

The differences in size, head shape, and fin are obvious in these images.

The videos below will help you get a good look at this unusual mammal.

It’s hard to imagine an animal as large as a dolphin going undetected until 2005. And it’s not even like the Australian Snubfin Dolphin could be mistaken for what most people perceive a dolphin to look like – having a pointed nose (or beak). This dolphin has a round melon-like head! See figure 1, the Snubfin, versus figure 2, the Bottlenose.

In 2005 scientists were doing DNA profiles and skull measurements on what they thought to be Irrawaddy dolphins, Orcaella brevirostris,(Figure 3) in the Australian waters. But to their amazement, they had discovered a new species of dolphin, the Australian Snubfin Dolphin, Orcaella heinsohnii, (Figure 1) – the only dolphin native to Australia.

The discovery of a new species of mammal is extremely rare. And, the Australian Snubfin is the first new dolphin species to be discovered in 56 years.

The Australian Snubfin Dolphin resides in the warmer waters of the northern Australian coast in waters less that 49 feet (15 meters) deep.

The Snubfin's appearance is very unusual in a couple aspects. As you can tell in Figure 1, the Snubfin has a short stubby dorsal fin on its back compared to the typical Bottlenose (Figure 2). It is from this fin that the Snubfin’s name was derived. It also has a rounded melon-shaped head, and a distinct skin crease around a flexible neck. One other mammal, also ocean dwelling, has a flexible neck – the Beluga whale. This flexible neck allows the Snubfin to turn its head!

The Australian Snubfin Dolphin averages between 59 - 106 inches (1.5 – 2.7 meters) in length. The male is typically slightly larger than the female. Rather than being located on the center of its head, its blowhole is located slightly off-center and to the left. The Australian Snubfin Dolphin ranges in color from cream to shades of brown and gray; its underside typically being lighter in color. The Snubfin ‘s lifespan is believed to be approximately 30 years.

The Snubfin usually swims in a pod size of 5-6, but some pods are as large as 14-15 dolphins. As they are swimming, they generally surface every minute or so, but can remain underwater for up to 12 minutes. They are not as acrobatic as most dolphins making only very small jumps in addition to the typical tail slapping.

Figure 3: Size Comparison of an Average Human Against the Irrawaddy Dolphin
Figure 3: Size Comparison of an Average Human Against the Irrawaddy Dolphin | Source

The Irrawaddy dolphin is very similar in appearance to the Australian Snubfin Dolphin.

They may have remained undiscovered for so long because they are very shy, not swimming around boats like other dolphin species are known to do.

The Australian Snubfin’s typical diet is fish, squid, octopus, prawns and crabs. The Snubfin catches its prey in a very unusual manner. A group of dolphins will form a circle with their heads above the water. They spit the water, which diverts the fish towards other dolphins where it is quickly snatched up.

The Australian Snubfin Dolphin is believed to reach sexual maturity at 4-6 years of age. The Snubfin is sexually active year round, with most activity occurring in the winter months. The gestation period is believed to last approximately 14 month. Therefore, calves are born any time of the year, but most are also born during the winter months. They are born tail first so that as soon as the head appears the calf can be gently guided to the water’s surface to take its first breath. Being a mammal, dolphins do not have gills, and must come to the surface to breath. It is believed that the Snubfin will have a calf every 2-3 years, making recovery from its threatened status slow.

The Australian Snubfin Dolphin is considered to as ‘near threatened, data deficient’, meaning that we don’t know enough to make a determination but what we do know indicates that it may be threatened. It is believed that there may be less than 1000 Australian Snubfin Dolphins in existence.

Threats to its existence include being caught in fishing nets, overfishing of its prey by humans, water pollution and habitat destruction.

Comments: "Australian Snubfin Dolphin"

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    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 5 years ago from Texas

      Global-Chica - Dolphins are really amazing creatures. And I had never heard of the Australian Snubfin Dolphin before. Thanks for the votes and for stopping by.Here's hoping you have a very merry Christmas.

    • Global-Chica profile image

      Anna 5 years ago from New York, NY

      Great article, homesteadbound. These are such beautiful creatures and sadly, threatened. Thank you for getting the word out about them. Votes up and beautiful!

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      Melovy - I really do love Australia and all the interesting wildlife it has. I have always imagined it to be magical. I have wanted to go for almost 40 years now ... and since then I have found out that I hate flying. Kinda makes it hard, but lack of funds has kept me from having to worry about making that decision.

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Melovy profile image

      Yvonne Spence 6 years ago from UK

      The words Australian and dolphin were enough for me to want to read this hub. I love both. My family and I visited Northern Queensland early in 2009, but I’ve never heard of these dolphins - and I’m a member of WWF! Thanks for bringing their plight to attention.

      If you ever do go to Australia I think you’d love it. It has something magical about it. We went to a few parts of Queensland and to the Perth area, and it was hard to leave to come back home!

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      f - it does seem that our tax dollars are often spent in ways that I have questioned as being unwise.

      Maybe one day I will get to Australia, and so many other places I would like to visit.

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      PS: It's just typical of some politicians to ignore pressing, practical issues such as gas prices, yet to spend time fussing about subjects such as bikini top straps on beaches. (Not that I'm a naturist.)

      Anyway, we'll see if we can't get to Australia one day. It's an amazing country and I've met lots of nice Australians.

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      Well, I see. It doesn't surprise me, really, anyway. (Was it, like, obvious?)

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      That was the case also when we stayed at a hotel in Jamaica where part of the hotel was nude.

    • profile image

      6 years ago

      YW. I guess, too, that many Australians on beaches would make American cheerleaders look like nuns, too... .

      Different, yes.

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      f - Australia is just such a fascinating place. So different from the states for sure.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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      6 years ago

      Well, exactly. We need to be careful. Anyway, all the coral, and marine life along that amazing east coast of Australia would be impressive. Sydney Harbour, too; the strange-looking Opera House, etc. (Though the Bondi beach would probably be a bit relaxed by US standards. Blessings.

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      f - sounds like a good idea. The long flight would be one of the things that I would dread the most.

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      6 years ago

      Australians are unique people, as well, I would add. (Nice, of course.)

      Those who go should check first for deep vein thrombosis, though; such a long haul.

      Blessings.

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      f - Australia is one of those places that I have always wanted to go to view the strangest animals that God created. Maybe I will make it some day.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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      6 years ago

      Voted up. Interesting; Australia has such a lot of wildlife and marine life, and it would be great to visit the Great Barrier Reef along Australia's east coast, places such as the oddly named Surfer's Paradise, and even maybe Bondi Beach?

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      Ardie - I am pleased that you enjoyed the article. I had not heard it either. It made me smile when I read your comment and you called them shy beauties. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Ardie profile image

      Sondra 6 years ago from Neverland

      This was a most interesting read. How did I miss the news that a new dolphin was discovered in 2005?! I love dolphins and it breaks my heart we couldn't protect these precious creatures before now. Perhaps the shy beauties knew we would protect them and that's why they finally surfaced :D

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      jami l. pereira - you are quite the reader tonight. I can't keep up with you. I'm pleased that you are enjoying yourself. It is interesting that an animal as big as a dolphin can go unidentified for so long.

      Thanks for stopping by, commenting, and voting. Have a great week.

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      jami l. pereira 6 years ago

      Dang , That is odd that they have just discovered(2005) this species of dolphin , and i thought Jacques cousteu on top of everything ! Hmmm.. imagine that , very well written and informational hub , i voted up all the way across except funny of course , they should have discovered it sooner , have a wonderful evening :)

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      Marsha H - If is amazing to think that there are animals still being discovered. I plan on writing about several that have been recently discovered. Just trying to find the time to get in all done. Thanks for stopping by and for the votes.

    • Marsha H profile image

      Marsha H 6 years ago from My Retro Kitchen in NY

      Wow. This is the first I've heard of the Snubfin Dolphins discovery. You've got to wonder what else is out there that we don't know about yet?

      Very interesting stuff. +vote up.

    • homesteadbound profile image
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      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      Movie Master - it is amazing that something as big or bigger than a human can go without discovery for so long. Thanks for stopping by and for the votes.

    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 6 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi homesteadbound, that's amazing they didn't discover the snubfin dolphin until 2005!

      Thank you for a really interesting and informative hub, I love learning about dolphins!

      Voting up.

    • homesteadbound profile image
      Author

      Cindy Murdoch 6 years ago from Texas

      Cloverleaf - It has been my dream since 1975 to go visit Australia. Hopefully I will make it some day. Imagine the hubs we could write! It was great of you to stop by!

    • Cloverleaf profile image

      Cloverleaf 6 years ago from Calgary, AB, Canada

      Hi Homesteadbound, I would love to visit Austrailia and witness these beautiful creatures. I can't believe there are less than 1000 left. Your hub is so interesting - voting up!