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By Stephen Luntz

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New Dolphin Species
Victoria’s inshore dolphins have been recognised as a distinct species, bringing the number of bottlenose dolphin types to three. The discovery, published in PLoS One, is a stunning achievement for PhD student Kate Charlton-Robb of Monash University, who combined DNA evidence with skull shape and external characteristics to demonstrate the uniqueness of the dolphins living in Port Phillip Bay and the Gippsland Lakes.

She has named the new species Tursiops australis, with the common name Burrunan. The latter is the word for dolphin in several Aboriginal languages.

“This is an incredibly fascinating discovery as there have only been three new dolphin species formally described and recognised since the late 1800s,” Charlton-Robb says. “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.”

Charlton-Robb has been studying dolphins from Bass Strait and Victoria’s bays for13 years. She says: “Previously it had been assumed they were one of the two known species of bottlenose dolphins, truncatus and aduncus, but no one seemed sure which they were.” At different times the Port Phillip Bay dolphins had been listed as each – an understandable confusion since by size they...

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