Northern right whale dolphin
The Northern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) is a small and slender species of marine mammal found in the North Pacific Ocean. The Northern right whale dolphin travels in groups of up to 2000, often with other cetaceans, in deep waters of the North Pacific. The dolphin is one of two species of Right whale dolphin, the other being found in cooler oceans of the southern hemisphere.
The species has a streamlined body with a sloping forehead, are more slender than other delphinids, and lack any fin or ridge on their smoothly curving backs. The beak is short and well defined, a straight mouthline, and an irregular white patch on chin. The flippers are small, curved, narrow and pointed, the body is mostly black while the underside is partly white or lighter in colour. The tail flukes are triangular and, like the flippers, pointed. Adults weigh between 60–100 kg. They have 74 to 108 thin and sharp teeth, not externally visible. As young calves, these dolphins are greyish brown or sometimes cream. They stay like this for a year, before their body turns mainly black, with a clear white belly, and a white streak to their lower jaw.
Adults range in size from 2 metres in length, females are recorded as 2.3–2.6 m, males at 3.1 m, the sexes are otherwise similar in colour and appearance. Newborns are around 90 centimetres. Northern Right Whale Dolphins have less white on their bodies than the Southern species.
Northern right whale dolphin are found as individuals, or in groups as large as 2000. The group's average number is 110 in the eastern North Pacific and 200 individuals in the western North Pacific. They often associate with Pacific white-sided dolphins.
They can reach speeds of up to 30–40 kilometres per hour across the open ocean, never along shallow coasts. They can dive up to 200 metres in search of fish, especially lanternfish, and squid. They are found in temperate to cold waters, 24 to 8 degrees Celsius, from latitudes 51°N to 31°N between the west coast of North America and Asia.
Yankee whalers occasionally took this species for food in the mid-19th century. Records from the late twentieth century show large numbers of Lissodelphis borealis were caught in drift nets, used for large scale squid fishing, which is estimated to have reduced the population by one to three quarters. The current population trend is unknown, IUCN Redlist gives the conservation status as Least Concern.
The species was first described by Titian Peale in 1848. The genus Lissodelphis is placed within Delphinidae, the oceanic dolphin family of cetaceans. The epithet of the genus was derived from Greek lisso, smooth, and delphis; the specific epithet, borealis, indicates the northern distribution. The common names for the species formerly included Northern right whale porpoise, Snake porpoise, and Pacific right whale porpoise. Both species in the genus are also referred by the name Right whale dolphin, a name derived from the Right whales Eubalaena, which also lack a dorsal fin.
This species usually travel in groups of 5–200 animals. When travelling fast the group will look like they're bouncing along on the water, as they make low leaps together, sometimes travelling as far as 7 metres in one leap. They are timid animals, and usually avoid boats. These graceful swimmers may bow-ride sometimes, and are spotted occasionally doing acrobatics, such as breaching, belly-flopping, side slapping, and lobtailing.
- Hammond, P.S., Bearzi, G., Bjørge, A., Forney, K., Karczmarski, L., Kasuya, T., Perrin, W.F., Scott, M.D., Wang, J.Y., Wells, R.S. & Wilson, B. (2008). Lissodelphis borealis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 24 March 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is of least concern.
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