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The Snubfin Dolphin

The species was not known to exist before 2005, when it was first scientifically described.

Snubfin dolphins are Australia’s only endemic dolphin species and are found only in Australia’s tropical northern waters.

These types of dolphins were previously thought to be the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), however, DNA profiles and skull measurements by Queensland and Californian scientists have shown conclusively that the newly-named Australian Snubfin dolphin (Orcaella Heinsohnii), which has a short stubby dorsal fin and a round melon-like head, is a distinct species. Like many dolphin species, they are threatened by habitat destruction and accidental entanglement in fishing gear.

Snubfin are a relatively small dolphin, growing to between 1.5 and 2.7 m in length. They can vary in colour from brownish, grey to pale white in areas, and have a very blunt round head, unlike most other dolphins. The Australian snubfin dolphin has been recorded across northern Australia, from WA to Queensland, where it inhabits rivers, estuaries and coastal waters.

Very little is known about the snubfin dolphin. Recent studies in Queensland have shown that it is a potentially endemic to Australia. Unlike many other dolphins, the snubfin normally occurs in small groups, is shy and does not bow ride. The species is strongly linked to the mouths of tidal creeks rivers within 10km of land, in water less than 15m deep. They are also strongly linked to mangrove systems, feeding on a wide range of fish, squid and crustaceans.