A NEW, dinkum, species of dolphin has been found living in the crystal waters of the Great Barrier Reef.
The Australian snubfin dolphin, or orcaella heinsohni, was originally believed to be the Irrawaddy dolphin, found in coastal waters and rivers in Asia and northern Australia.
But James Cook University Townsville marine researcher Isabel Beasley said yesterday investigations carried out in collaboration with Dr Peter Arnold from the Museum of Tropical Queensland revealed enough differences to identify the mammal as a new species.
It was named snubfin because of its stubby dorsal fin and rounded, bulbous nose.
A collaborative genetic study was also undertaken with Dr Kelly Robertson from the Southwest Fisheries Science Centre in California.
"There are clear differences between the two populations that had not been previously recognised and these were confirmed by the studies on DNA," Ms Beasley said.
The Australian snubfin dolphins live in shallow coastal waters and are generally shy.
"Unfortunately, they are susceptible to many human threats including being caught in shark and fishing nets as well as the effects of coastal development," Ms Beasley said.
She said the dolphin had been given the scientific name orcaella heinsohni after James Cook University researcher George Heinsohn, who studied dolphins caught in shark nets in the late 1960s and 1970s.
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