Burrunan Dolphin, Tursiops australis

The Burrunan dolphin (Tursiops australis) is one of three recognized species of bottlenose dolphin. It can be found in two areas of Victoria, Australia. One population can be found in the Gippsland Lakes, where about 50 reside, and one in Port Phillip, where about 100 individuals reside. Haplotypes of the Burrunan dolphin have been discovered in an area extending from the Spencer Gulf waters west to St. Francis Island. Because of its low numbers, it is thought to deserve protection from the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

Kate Charlton-Robb and her colleagues, all from Monash University, first discovered the Burrunan dolphin. Its common name, Burrunan, is an Aboriginal term from the Taungurung, Woiwurrung, and Boonwurrung languages, which means “large sea fish of the porpoise kind.” Its scientific name, australis, refers to its Australian range and means “southern” in Latin. This species was first recognized as a one of the two pre-existing species of bottlenose dolphin, although differences were recorded. In 2011, a study focusing on genetic analysis and other factors showed that this dolphin would be better classified as a distinct species.

The Burrunan dolphin can reach an average body length between 7.4 and 9.1 feet, making it larger than the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin and smaller than the common bottlenose dolphin. It is greyish blue in color in the front until the dorsal fin, where its coloring becomes lighter along the middle of the body. The underbelly is whitish in color, and this white coloring can reach the fins and the area above the eye in some dolphins.

Image Caption: Dolphin, Port Phillip, Victoria, Australia. Credit: Camille Ménard/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0 FR)