Barnacles Dolphin Centre
Tin Can Bay
About the dolphins
The australian humpback dolphin as of the 1st August 2014 was recognized World Wide as a species on its own, as of that date no population estimate is available so still classified rare.
The specific name of is derived from the Sahul Shelf an underwater shelf located between Northern Australia and Southern New Guinea where the Australian Humpback Dolphins occur.
As scientifically described on 31st July 2014 in the Marine Mammal Science Journal and is now recognized as the fourth Chronological species of Humpback Dolphins. The others being the Atlantic Humpback, The Indian Ocean Humpback and the Indo-Pacific Humpback.
The Australian Humpback dolphin gets its name from the elongated dorsal fin and humped back appearance which arises from the accumulation of fatty tissue on their backs as they age. They also differ from other dolphin species in relation to their mounded forehead and long beaks.
Male and female Australian Humpback Dolphins grow to a length of between 2.6m and 2.7m reaching physical maturity at around 14 years of age (sexual maturity occurs between the ages of 10 to 13 years). In the wild, these dolphins will live to around 40 years of age.
These dolphins have a cruising speed of 4 knots with a top speed of 11 knots. At birth they are 1 mtr. in length between 12-14 kgs and on full maturity they reach 2.7mtrs and weigh in between 150 – 180kgs.
Skin colours will vary depending on location and age with calves being born grey and lightening with age (particularly the dorsal fin and forehead).
Australian Humpback dolphins inhabit the tropical waters of the west and east coasts and are classified as rare by the EPA and ‘near threatened, population decreasing’ by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Australian Humpback dolphins prefer coastal and estuarine habitats in tropical and sub-tropical regions where waters are less than 20m deep. In our region, this area extends from the The Great Sandy Strait to the Tin Can Inlet. They are not known to be migratory.
The dolphins live on a diet of fish, prawns, molluscs, crabs, squid and octopus according to the location and season.
Australian Humpback dolphins are more leisurely swimmers than some other dolphin species and do not as a rule surf bow waves. They swim in small pods of around five or so dolphins. Each pod is lead by an alpha male, or, on occasion, an alpha female. Males will have raking marks on their bodies from fights with other males over territory, and/or female members of its pod.
Living close to coasts and rivers, the Australian Humpback dolphin is especially susceptible to pollution as well as shark and fishing nets. Other threats include overfishing of their habitat, noise pollution affecting their sonar location, marine activities, harrassment and coastal development. They have nowhere to go when their environment is damaged.
How to Identify an Australian humpback dolphin
Australian humpback dolphins are endemic to the tropical coastal regions of Australia. They are typically a shy and timid species. They have a relatively small triangular dorsal fin, light grey colouration and pronounced rostrum (beak) and melon (forehead). As they age, they can acquire pale scarring and become quite speckled.
Become a Dolphin Watch Citizen Scientist and help to monitor dolphin populations in your region. Check out www.dolphinresearchaustralia.org to learn more about observing our Dolphin Watch Initiative and to Report your Dolphin Sightings.