Burrunan Dolphins

What about the new species of dolphins in Port Phillip?

The critical understanding about the resident Port Phillip bottlenose dolphin community is that it is a very isolated population, with little mixing with dolphins from outside the bay. This is shown by the Institute's photo-ID work over more than two decades and also genetic studies from tissues obtained by biopsy sampling. This understanding tells wildlife managers that our resident communities are more vulnerable than if they were a fluid part of much bigger populations spreading out across our region.

A paper published by Dr Charlton-Robb in 2011 describes the Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis) as a new species resident in Port Phillip and the Gippsland Lakes.

However, the status of this species is questionable, with it being omitted from the most recent list of marine mammal species by the Committee for Taxonomy for the International Society for Marine Mammalogy (publishers of the prestigious journal "Marine Mammal Science"). Their entry about the species is included below and it is linked to the SMM site.

The Burrunan dolphin Tursiops australis, recently described by Charlton-Robb et al. (2011), is not included here; its basis is questionable because of several potential problems: 1) the specimens were compared morphologically only with bottlenose dolphins from Australia; 2) despite the small sample sizes, the series overlapped in all metric characters and separation was possible only with multivariate analysis (which commonly resolves geograpThe Burrunan dolphin Tursiops australis, recently described by Charlton-Robb et al. (2011), is not included here; its basis is questionable because of several potential problems: 1) the specimens were compared morphologically only with bottlenose dolphins from Australia; 2) despite the small sample sizes, the series overlapped in all metric characters and separation was possible only with multivariate analysis (which commonly resolves geographical forms within a species, e.g., see Perrin et al. (1999) and Perrin et al. (2011) for Stenella longirostris and Tursiops truncatus, respectively); 3) comparisons of external morphology and non-metric characters were made only with T. truncatus, to the exclusion of T. aduncus; and 4) support for important nodes in molecular trees suggesting phylogenetic separation was low. A rigorous re-evaluation of the relevant data and arguments is needed. Wickert et al. (2016) and Costa et al. (2016) examined morphological characteristics of Tursiops specimens from the western South Atlantic and recommended species and subspecies status, respectively, for the larger coastal form found in the sampled region. We provisionally recognize the subspecies T. t. gephyreus Lahille 1908, for this larger coastal form and apply the English name Lahille’s bottlenose dolphin. Improved geographic sampling and improved objectivity in hypothesis testing is needed to fully resolve the taxonomy of Tursiops in this region. In particular, further work is needed to 1) better identify the distribution of the gephyreus form, 2) compare the morphology and molecular genetics of the gephyreus form to the type specimen of Ttruncatus, and 3) determine its phylogenetic relationship to coastal and offshore Tursiops in the western North Atlantic.hical forms within a species, e.g. see Perrin et al. (1999) and Perrin et al. (2011) for Stenella longirostris and Tursiops truncatus, respectively); 3) comparisons of external morphology and non-metrical characters were made only with T. truncatus, to the exclusion ofT. aduncus; and 4) support for important nodes in molecular trees suggesting phylogenetic separation was low. A rigorous re-evaluation of the relevant data and arguments is needed.

 

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