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This document is the first and only publicly available identification catalogue for common dolphins that reside in Port Phillip. The catalogue fills an important gap in the understanding of this unique community of dolphins, adding value in understanding life histories, social bonds between animals and habitat use. We consider the catalogue to be a living document that will be regularly updated as new animals are identified and/or new features appear on existing catalogued animals.

Catalogue updated June 2024.

The catalogue represents the ‘tip of the iceberg’ from 18 years of water-based surveys and many thousands of hours of analysing close to 100,000 digital images.

During the past four years we have reviewed and significantly improved our Photo Identification methods, which has facilitated the production of this catalogue.

The more than eighty individual common dolphins presented are only those dolphins that can be identified from both conspicuous and subtle markings on their dorsal fin, many require an experienced eye to distinguish.

The invisible part of the ‘research iceberg’ is the second and third passes over all the data to validate this basic identification work. Then to undertake analyses to tease out: the numbers of permanent residents or transients; the numbers that we can’t ID but are still present; calving rates and success; skin health; and the extent of human impacts from vessels. Some of this will involve citizen science.

The release of this catalogue is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the remarkable situation where normally oceanic species of dolphins come to live. It is at a time when dolphin populations around the globe and elsewhere in Australia, are being lost. A positive story that leaves no room for complacency if we are going to ensure the future of these wonderful creatures in a future of threats from rapidly changing climate and human population growth.

Producing this catalogue would not have been possible if not for the input of the many post-graduate students, volunteers, citizen scientists and professional collaborators that the Dolphin Research Institute has had the good fortune to work with over the last 18 years.

Perhaps most importantly, it would not have been possible without our loyal and passionate supporters – thank you all. Please share this work with your friends and family and join in our work to protect our dolphins, whales and their environment.


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