New species of dolphin discovered off Australia
A Burrunan dolphin jumps above others in Port Phillip Bay, Australia.
September 16th, 2011
07:45 AM ET

New species of dolphin discovered off Australia

Australian researchers have discovered a new species of dolphin living right under their, uh, bottlenoses.

A population of 100 dolphins in Port Phillip Bay and 50 in the Gippsland Lakes on Australia's southern coast have been proven to be genetically unique from dolphins anywhere else in the world,  Monash University doctoral researcher Kate Charlton-Robb said in a university release.

"We're very pleased to announce that yes it is a new dolphin species, and I have called it Tersiops Australis," Charlton-Robb said in an interview with Radio Australia.

The new species has been given the common name the Burrunan dolphin, meaning "large sea fish of the porpoise kind" in Aboriginal languages, she said.

The Burrunan dolphins were originally thought to be one of two bottlenose species, but researchers used DNA and skull comparisons to establish they were a new species.

Only three new dolphin species have been recognized since the late 1800s, Charlton-Robb said.

"This animal has been living right under our noses for so many years and just with combining those two different technologies, with looking at the skull morphology and the DNA, you know there's still really exciting discoveries to be made," Charlton-Robb told Radio Australia.

She said the discovery highlights the importance of conservation efforts.

"It would be a shame to discover something and then and lose it. So we really are working hard to try and protect and conserve these animals," she told Radio Australia.

And if you want to get a look at the new species, head to Port Phillip Bay.

"The animals that you would see out in the bay on a normal occasion would be this new species type," Charton-Robb told Radio Australia.

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