New Dolphin Species, Named Burrunan, Discovered in Australia

Posted on September 16, 2011

Burrunan Dolphin


A new species of dolphin has been discovered off the coast of Melbourne, Australia. The dolphins have the common name Burrunan, which is an Australian aboriginal name given to dolphins in the Boonwurrung, Woiwurrung and Taungurung languages. It means, "large sea fish of the porpoise kind." The scientific name is Tursiops australis.

Kate Charlton-Robb, a PhD researcher in the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University, discovered that the dolphins are a new species by comparing dolphin skulls and DNA. The dolphins were originally thought to be one of the two recognized bottlenose dolphin species.

Charlton-Robb, says, "This is an incredibly fascinating discovery as there have only been three new dolphin species formally described and recognised since the late 1800s. What makes this even more exciting is this dolphin species has been living right under our noses, with only two known resident populations living in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes in Victoria."

She also says there may only be a small number of the dolphins. She says, "We know these unique dolphins are restricted to a very small region of the world, in addition the resident populations are very small with only approximately 100 dolphins in Port Phillip Bay and 50 in the Gippsland Lakes."

The research paper was published here in PLoS One.

Photo: Kate Charlton-Robb/Monash University