Kimberley Dolphin Species
The warm tropical waters off Broome and the Dampier Peninsula are home to several species of dolphins including the newly named Australian Humpback dolphin, the Dwarf Spinner dolphin, Indo-pacific Bottlenose dolphin and Australian Snubfin dolphin.
Australian Snubfin dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni)
Australian Snubfin dolphins (commonly known as “Snubbies”), were only recognised as a species in their own right in 2005. Previously known as Australian Irrawaddy dolphins, these cuddly looking little marine animals are found only in waters off the northern half of Australia, from approximately Broome (17° 57´ S) on the west coast to the Brisbane River (27° 32´ S) on the east coast.
Australian Snubfin dolphins are characterised by an extremely mobile head with a visible neck crease and no rostrum or beak. Snubbies have less than 20 peg-like teeth on each side of the jaws, and a straight mouth-line. They also lack a dorsal groove between the snout and the dorsal fin, which is small and situated in the latter half of the body, and have broad, paddle-like flippers. Roebuck Bay has the highest density and second highest recorded number of Snubfins in the world, although Murdoch University researchers estimate a population of only 137 adults remain. Snubbies play in tightly packed groups, often bumping and jostling as they move around the bay. Snubbies use echo-location to find prey, and have developed a unique method of fishing by spitting at fish from a distance.
Indo-pacific Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus)
The most commonly seen dolphin species in the waters off Broome is the Indo-pacific Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus).
Characterised by spots on its belly and sides, and smaller in size than a common Bottlenose (Tursiops truncatus), the Indo-pacific Bottlenose has a taller curving fin that an Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphin.
Australian Humpback dolphin (Sousa sahulensis)
Australia’s newest dolphins, the Australian Humpback dolphin, was named as a separate species in 2014.
This newly named species of Dolphin features a low dorsal fin with no hump, a distinctive skull shape and a darker cape on its back than Sousa chinensis, the Indo-pacific Humpback dolphin.