Professor Discovers New Dolphin Species

Humpback dolphins plying the waters in four regions of Africa, India, and Australia look very similar, but are in fact separate species, according to a new study released last month.

The findings were reported in the October issue of the journal Molecular Ecology, in a paper titled “Integrating multiple lines of evidence to better understand the evolutionary divergence of humpback dolphins along their entire distribution range: a new dolphin species in Australian waters?”

Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis, Ph.D., assistant professor of biological sciences at Fordham, co-authored the study, which involved extracting 235 tissue samples and 180 skulls throughout the animals’ distribution, representing the biggest dataset assembled to date for the animals.

The goal of the study is to aid in the conservation of the dolphins (genus Sousa) by getting a better understanding of what makes them distinct.

Each dolphin occupies a different section of ocean around the world, including in the Atlantic Ocean off West Africa (Sousa teuszii), in the central to western Indo-Pacific ocean (Sousa plumbea), in the eastern Indian and western Pacific Ocean (Sousa chinensis) and a new, as-yet-unnamed species off northern Australia.

Kolokotronis’ study and his perspectives on what makes a species were featured in a recent article on the Smithsonian magazine’s blog.

—Patrick Verel