The southern right whale dolphin is mostly black dorsally and white ventrally. The border between the two colors meet on the posterior flank, and it dips to where the flipper inserts, then sweeps upward and across the melon before the blowhole. The beak, anterior melon, and flippers are white. A black band is seen on the trailing edge of the flippers as well. Gray coloration is sometimes seen on the dorsal surface of the flukes as opposed to black. Several different color variants have been reported in this species including: those with white spots on the head, or variations in the amount of black and white on the body and fins. Calves have been reported to possess a muted color pattern of brown or gray instead of balck and white.
The name '/Lissodelphis/' refers to the fact that both species of right whale dolphin (northern and southern) are characterized by complete absence of a dorsal fin or dorsal ridge. Southern right whale dolphins along with their northern counterpart are the most slender of all cetaceans. They have a dorso ventrally compressed body, a straight mouthline, a moderately well demarcated, but short, beak, small recurved flippers with pointed tips about 1/4 of the way back from the snout tip, and small concave flukes with a deep to medium notch. Southern right whale dolphins have reached a reported 2.97 m in length, and males tend to grow larger than females.
The skull is slender and light with a rostrum that is elongated and tapers to a sharp point. The rostral length is roughly twice the width. The premaxilla are widely separated through to the rostrum tip and the pterygoid bones are also separated. Teeth are small, slender and sharp, ranging in number from 37-54. In general, there are slightly more teeth in the lower jaw. (Jefferson et al., 1994; Jefferson et al., 1993; Macdonald et al., 1984; Nowak, 1991)
Average mass: 113 kg.
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