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Chinese White Dolphin

Updated on February 23, 2016

Scientific Name: Sousa chinensis

Chinese White Dolphin Description

 The physical appearance of the Chinese White Dolphin is very interesting. They are classified as medium in size. They can also be the light gray that we are often familiar with for dolphins. Yet some of them are a light white in color. What is even more interesting though is that they can also develop areas of pink on their bodies. This isn’t as common with the younger ones, but a feature that is more obvious the older they become.

What causes this pink coloring really isn’t known. They don’t have a diet that is much different from other species of dolphins. It could be that their blood vessels change in terms of contracting as they get older. There is a common myth that the Chinese White Dolphin has been sunburned and it many instances it looks that way. Yet it has been confirmed by experts that isn’t true.

Chinese White Dolphin Anatomy

 Many people are surprised to find that these dolphins have a body that is very round. Since most other species are very slender it does stick out in their minds. It isn’t that they are fatter but that they have more layers of fat. You have to keep in mind that many of them live in cooler regions. As a result they need more layers of blubber to help regulate their body temperature.

Of all the species of dolphins out there, this one has the very best eyesight. This is a situation that also puzzles researchers. If you know very much about dolphins then it is not news to you that most are almost blind. Yet this one can see what is going on in the water and when they come to the surface to survey the land around them.

Image under GNU License. Courtesy of Takoradee
Image under GNU License. Courtesy of Takoradee

Chinese White Dolphin Evolution

 How the Chinese White Dolphin came to be though really isn’t understood. They are linked by DNA to the dolphins found in fossil form from about 50 million years ago. Most experts agree with the theory that all dolphins were land animals. Yet they had to change to move around in the water for food instead of on land due to circumstances that occurred at some point in time. We still need to explore plenty of details though before we have some certainly about the evolution process regarding this particular species of dolphin.

Chinese White Dolphin Behavior

 You will find these dolphins living in very small groups, often no more than four of them. They do love to socialize just like other species, but they don’t seem to have the same need for a large pod as other species. They will form an alliance with their small pod though that is remarkably strong. It is fascinating to see the way in which they will work as a team and stand up to protect each other.

You are in for a treat though should you spend some time watching them. These dolphins are known to leap very high out of the water. They also known to only stick their heads out to look around at their surroundings. Some wonder when they see this if they are being observed or they are the ones doing the actual observing.

They love to swim in a variety of fun ways, including on their sides or on their backs. The look on their face is one that often seems to be smiling so they definitely seem to be enjoying themselves in the water. Many people view these dolphins as being very humanistic in nature due to that appearance.

Many people spend time watching them as they do spend plenty of time at the surface of the water. The younger ones have to get air twice as often too because they don’t have their full lung capacity developed yet. That will be in place as they mature though.

Chinese White Dolphin Habitat

 You will only find these dolphins in areas around China. They include Lantau, Peng Chau, and Soko Islands. They live in both warm and cool bodies of water. What is very interesting about this is that those in the warmer regions feature less of the pink than those that live in the cooler areas.

Regardless of the temperature, the Chinese White Dolphins do live in fresh water. This can be one of many sources though. They have been identified living in lagoons, reefs, lakes, and even in some swampy areas. They tend to find their natural environment invaded more and more by humans though. This is difficult due to the amount of noise and pollution that people bring in.

Photo taken by Leonard Reback
Photo taken by Leonard Reback

Chinese White Dolphin Feeding Habits

 Even though they can see very well, these dolphins are among the best hunters for another reason. Like all species of dolphins, they are able to rely on picking up the various vibrations that living creatures give off. They use these vibrations to tell them what prey is out there, where it is from them, and if it is moving which direction so that they can develop their plan of action.

These dolphins can spend many hours every day getting enough food to survive on. They need to consume about 8% of their overall body weight every day. Most of that food will be in the form of small or medium fish. They don’t chew their food even though they do have teeth. Instead all of their food is swallowed.

When they can’t find enough fish to consume they will eat octopus, shrimp, crab, and squid. However, if they are finding lots of fish then they will pass up these other items of food. This is different than the eating habits of other species of dolphins. They are usually very apt to eating what they can come across instead of being as picky.

Chinese White Dolphin Reproduction

 Females are ready to mate sooner than the males. This occurs at the ages of about 10 and 13 years old respectively. The males tend to initiate the mating by calling out to the females. A pair can be seen communicating that way, touching, and even just spending their time swimming in the water.

The young pup will emerge from the mother in about 11 months. She will be very good at her role of caring for it. Even though the young Chinese White Dolphins do learn to hunt early, they will continue to feed from their mothers for about three years. They grow very fast and get plenty of nutrition due to the high fat content in the milk she offers.

These dolphins have a life of about 40 years in the wild. They aren’t usually kept in captivity though. There is a high mortality rate with them in captivity due to the development of many forms of parasites and diseases.

Chinese White Dolphin Predators

 Predators including different species of sharks and Killer Whales are natural predators for them to be aware of. How severe that risk is really depends on two things – how desperate they are for food and where these dolphins happen to be residing. They do have substantial problems though with humans and their choices. In addition the pollution and the noise that I mentioned there are other issues.

For example many of the Chinese White Dolphins are killed to provide a source of meat for many in China. Others are just killed so that they won’t be eating the fish that commercial marketers want to be able to cash in on. Even with some forms of protection in place, it isn’t known if the remaining 1,700 of them will have what they need to be able to survive.



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    kelly awesome 3 years ago

    Its so sad there are only 5 Chinese white dolphins in the whole in tire world:(

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    BOB 5 years ago

    this is realy epic it helped me with my homework

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    tikia baldwin 5 years ago

    i realy loved this page in it help me with my worl

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    may 5 years ago

    the chinese white dolphins are aoswme

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    Jane 6 years ago

    There are several factual errors here, regarding this species of estuarine dolphins, who live in brackish, not fresh, water throughout SE Asia and beyond. They are correctly called Indo-Pacific Humpbacks, or Sousa Chinensis.

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    somtin somting 7 years ago


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    mimi grl 7 years ago

    i agree people have to be carful on what harm they are doing i mean any1 can do something wrong without them even knowing!!!!

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    maryam 7 years ago

    dolphins are the most cutest mammals ( also whales ) they are becoming endangered so be carfull .

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    dede 7 years ago

    whf there are vertebrates

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    kiya 7 years ago

    are doldhins vertebrates are invertebrate