Newly Discovered Dolphin Species Needs Name

Humpbacks live off northern Australia coast
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 30, 2013 12:33 AM CDT
New Species of Dolphin Needs a Name
Humpback dolphins are wide-ranging but little-studied.   (Wikipedia/Tracy Meintjes)

A species of dolphin that lives off the coast of northern Australia is so new to science that it doesn't have a name yet. Scientists knew about the dolphin populations, but they were thought to be part of another humpback dolphin species until genetic testing revealed that they were a distinct species, National Geographic finds. There are now believed to be at least four separate species of humpback dolphin (debating scientists had tentatively decided there were just two species about a decade ago), all of which prefer coastal waters and have a tell-tale bump on their backs, notes the Los Angeles Times.

Finding a new species of mammal is far from an everyday occurrence, but genetic testing has thrown up surprises before, one of the researchers says. "One of the reasons we're finding new species is because we're finding new tools," he explains. "Genetics opens a new window into these kinds of questions." Like others of its kind, the Aussie humpback species is threatened by environmental pressures and the team that discovered it hopes its status as a distinct species will give protection efforts a boost. (More fascinating dolphin news: Genetically, they're like ... bats.)

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