Overview

Brief Summary

The Southern right whale dolphin according to MammalMAP

Southern right whale dolphins (Lissodelphis peronii) are distributed from the subtropical to the subantarctic oceans of the southern hemisphere, although their range and total population size has been little studied. In Africa, their range is associated with cold currents up the western and southern coasts, with a concentration recorded near Namibia. Southern right whale dolphins are graceful, slim-bodied creatures and are the only dolphins without dorsal fins in the southern hemisphere. They often move by leaping out of the water continuously and they boast breaching, belly-flopping, side-slapping and lob-tailing (slapping the flukes on the water surface) in their acrobatic repertoire. They typically live in groups of up to 100 individuals; some groups are more nervous than others and will swim away from boats, whereas others will approach boats and possibly bow-ride. For more information visit the MammalMAP virtual museum and blog.

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Distribution

Southern right whale dolphins (Lissodelphis peronii) have a circumpolar distribution near the sub-Antarctic Polar Front, which is the location where Antarctic surface waters that are moving northward sink below sub-Antarctic waters. It has also been commonly seen year-round around Chatham Island and the Falkland Islands. Their range reaches as far south as the Antarctic Convergence around 58 to 61 degrees south latitude and as far north as the Subtropical Convergence off the shores of Peru and Chile.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native ); antarctica (Native )

  • Riffenburgh, B. 2007. Small cetaceans: overview. Pp. 216-217 in Encyclopedia of the Antarctic, Vol. 1, First Edition. New York: CRC Press.
  • Rose, B., A. Payne. 1991. Occurrence and behavior of the Southern right whale dolphin Lissodelphis peronii off Namibia. Marine Mammal Science, 7: 25-34.
  • Skinner, J., C. Chimimba. 2005. The Mammals of the South African Subregion. London: Cambridge University Press.
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Range Description

The distribution of this species is poorly known, though it appears to be circumpolar and fairly common throughout its range (Jefferson et al. 1994, Lipsky 2002). Southern Right Whale Dolphins are found only in cool temperate to subantarctic waters of the Southern Hemisphere, mostly between about 30°S and 65°S. The southern limit appears generally to be bounded by the Antarctic Convergence. The range extends furthest north along the west coast of continents, due to the cold counter clockwise currents of the Southern Hemisphere. The northernmost record is at 12°S, off northern Peru.

The map shows where the species may occur based on oceanography. The species has not been recorded for all the states within the hypothetical range as shown on the map. States for which confirmed records of the species exist are included in the list of native range states.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Adult southern right whale dolphins are predominantly white on their ventral side and black dorsally. On the posterior flank, the two colors meet and curve downward to the flipper insertion, then swing upward to the melon, which is the swollen portion of a dolphin's head that produces vocalizations, in front of the blowhole. The beak, the anterior melon, and the flippers are white. The dorsal side of the flukes are grey. Variations have been reported, including white spots on the head and the amount of the black and white coloration. Calves are born with brown or grey areas instead of black and white, but develop adult coloration within their first year. The southern right whale dolphin is characterized by a lack of a dorsal fin or ridge. The genus name, Lissodelphis, describes this characteristic. It is derived from the Greek words lisso, meaning smooth, and delphis meaning dolphin. Some additional body shape characteristics include: a slender, compressed body, a short but well-defined beak, small, recurved flippers, and slightly concave flukes with a deep notch in the median. These dolphins are normally 2 to 3 m long, rarely exceeding 3.1 m. Adult weights can reach 59 to 100 kg, with males being larger.

Average mass: 59 to 100 kg.

Range length: 3.1 (high) m.

Average length: 2 to 3 m.

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

  • Jefferson, T., S. Leatherwood, M. Webber. 1993. Marine Mammals of the World: FAO Species Identification. Rome, Italy: Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations & United Nations Environment Programme.
  • Kalman, B. 2003. Dolphins Around the World. New York: Crabtree Publishing Company.
  • Klinowska, M. 1991. Dolphins, Porpoises and Whales of the World: the IUCN Red Data Book. Cambridge: IUCN.
  • Newcomer, M., T. Jefferson, R. Brownell. 1996. Lissodelphis peronii. Mammalian Species, 531: 1-5.
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Ecology

Habitat

cool temperate to subantarctic, oceanic
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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Southern right whale dolphins are pelagic, occupying cool waters that are deep offshore and are 8 to 19 degrees Celsius. They often dive to depths of 200 meters in search of food.

Average depth: 200 m.

Habitat Regions: polar ; saltwater or marine

Aquatic Biomes: pelagic

  • Jefferson, T., M. Newcomer, S. Leatherwood, K. Van Waerebeek. 1994. Right Whale Dolphins Lissodelphis borealis and Lissodelphis peronii.. Pp. 335-362 in S Ridgway, R Harrison, eds. Handbook of Marine Mammals, Vol. 5. London: University Academic Press Limited.
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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Southern Right Whale Dolphins are observed most often in cool, deep, offshore waters with temperatures of 1–20°C. They are only occasionally seen nearshore, and this is generally where deep water approaches the coast (Jefferson et al. 1994; Rose and Payne 1991).

The Southern Right Whale Dolphin feeds primarily on squid and fish (Jefferson et al. 1994).

Systems
  • Marine
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Depth range based on 10 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 9 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 0 - 0
  Temperature range (°C): 7.239 - 18.683
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.761 - 17.416
  Salinity (PPS): 34.075 - 35.576
  Oxygen (ml/l): 5.254 - 6.709
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.218 - 1.127
  Silicate (umol/l): 1.811 - 4.816

Graphical representation

Temperature range (°C): 7.239 - 18.683

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.761 - 17.416

Salinity (PPS): 34.075 - 35.576

Oxygen (ml/l): 5.254 - 6.709

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.218 - 1.127

Silicate (umol/l): 1.811 - 4.816
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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Trophic Strategy

Southern right whale dolphins primarily feed on mesopelagic fishes, describing fish that swim at depths between 200 and 1000 meters. These include laternfish, bigeye tuna, and squids.

Animal Foods: fish; mollusks

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore )

  • Allen, S., J. Mortenson, S. Webb. 2011. Field Guide to Marine Mammals of the Pacific Coast: Baja, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia. California: University of California Press.
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Associations

While effects of most parasites are largely unknown, a few are known to cause harm to the southern right whale dolphin. The trematode fluke (Nasitrema) can cause major damage to the air sinuses, inner ears, and brain. This is so severe that it has been stated as an influence in the stranding and death of some southern right whale dolphins. A Rhabditea parasite (Stenurus) damages the lungs of the dolphins, while the parasite (Anisakis simplex) causes deleterious effects on the stomach.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

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There are no records of predation for southern right whale dolphins, but killer whales, Patagonian toothfish, and sleeper sharks are likely predators.

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

There are no recorded sounds describing southern right whale dolphin vocalizations. The closely related northern right whale dolphins vocalize in clicks at high repetitious rates, also using a few whistles. Southern right whale dolphins use echolocation to help them perceive their environment if other individuals are nearby.

Communication Channels: acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; ultrasound ; echolocation ; chemical

  • Lipsky, J. 2008. Right Whale dolphins. Pp. 958-962 in W Perrin, B Wursig, J Thewissem, eds. Encyclopedia of Marine Mammals, Vol. 2, Second Edition. London: Academic Press.
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Life Expectancy

No published data report on the lifespan of the southern right whale dolphin in the wild. However, in a closely-related species, the northern right whale dolphin, the lifespan is listed as 42 years. It is expected that the southern relative's lifespan is similar. In captivity, southern right whale dolphins do not survive long. The average dolphin lives just 3 weeks, but one has been recorded living up to 15 months.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
1 to 15 months.

  • Visser, I., D. Fertl, L. Pusser. 2004. Melanistic Southern right-whale dolphins (Lissodelphis peronii) off Kaikoura, New Zealand, with records of other anomalously all-black cetacean. New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 38: 833-836.
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Reproduction

There is no published information on the mating systems of southern right whale dolphins. Even though the exact calving season is not known, most sightings of calves are in winter or early spring. Research suggests that males reach sexual maturity at lengths between 212 and 220 cm and females between 206 and 212 cm.

Little is known about the reproduction cycles of the southern right whale dolphins. Only six pregnant female dolphins have been seen stranded, and the reproductive behavior of these individuals were not investigated.

Key Reproductive Features: gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous

Nothing is known regarding parental investment strategies of southern right whale dolphins.

  • Cruickshank, R., S. Brown. 1981. Recent observations and some historical records of Southern right whale dolphins Lissodelphis peronii. Fisheries Bulletin South Africa, 15: 109-121.
  • Jefferson, T., M. Newcomer, S. Leatherwood, K. Van Waerebeek. 1994. Right Whale Dolphins Lissodelphis borealis and Lissodelphis peronii.. Pp. 335-362 in S Ridgway, R Harrison, eds. Handbook of Marine Mammals, Vol. 5. London: University Academic Press Limited.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

Currently, the southern right whale dolphin is not at the center of conservation efforts. Although they are deemed abundant, research about them is still lacking and they are listed as "Data Deficient" on the IUCN Red List.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: data deficient

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
DD
Data Deficient

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
Hammond, P.S., Bearzi, G., Bjørge, A., Forney, K.A., Karkzmarski, L., Kasuya, T., Perrin, W.F., Scott, M.D., Wang, J.Y. , Wells, R.S. & Wilson, B.

Reviewer/s
Rojas-Bracho, L. & Smith, B.D.

Contributor/s

Justification
There is a lack of adequate information to make an assessment of extinction risk for this species (including the lack of a population estimate, and lack of an assessment of the impact of by-catch in Chile).

History
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
    (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
  • 1996
    Data Deficient
  • 1994
    Insufficiently Known
    (Groombridge 1994)
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Population

Population
There are no estimates of abundance for the Southern Right Whale Dolphin, and virtually nothing is known of the subpopulation structure or status of the species. Preliminary boat surveys and the rapid accumulation of stranding and fishery interaction records in northern Chile suggest that the Southern Right Whale Dolphin may be one of the most common cetaceans in that region (Jefferson et al. 1994, Van Waerebeek et al. 1991). Aguayo et al. (1998) reported that L. peronii are very common between Valparaiso and 76°W, i.e. just off the Chilean coast.

Population Trend
Unknown
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Threats

Major Threats
Southern Right Whale Dolphins have been directly taken in recent years in Peru and Chile for crab bait and for human consumption (Jefferson et al. 1994). There are no estimates of the mortality levels.

The only incidental catch of any magnitude that is known is in the swordfish gillnet fishery off Chile. There is concern that large numbers are being killed in the driftnet fishery for Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) that began in northern Chile in the early 1980s (Reyes and Oporto 1994). They are also known to be taken incidentally in driftnets along the coasts of Peru (Jefferson et al. 1993).
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
It is listed on Appendix II of CITES. Because no population estimates are available, mortality rates and their effect on the population(s) are unknown. More research is clearly needed.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known negative economic influences of the southern right whale dolphins.

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Southern right whale dolphins are occasionally caught for food or crab bait off the coasts of Peru and Chile.

Positive Impacts: food

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Risks

IUCN Red List Category

Data Deficient (DD)
  • IUCN (2008) Cetacean update of the 2008 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
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Wikipedia

Southern right whale dolphin

The southern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis peronii) is a small and slender species of mammal found in cool waters of the southern hemisphere. The dolphin is one of two species of right whale dolphin, Lissodelphis, the other being found in deep oceans of the northern hemisphere.

Description[edit]

Southern right whale dolphins porpoising

Southern right whale dolphins are the only dolphins without dorsal fins in the southern hemisphere. They are smaller than northern right whale dolphins and have more white on their head and sides. They have slim, graceful bodies which are black on the upper side and white underneath. Their flippers are mainly white and are small and curved. Their flukes are small with a notch in the middle and concave trailing edges. Their beaks are small but distinct. They have between 43 to 49 teeth in each row of both jaws.

The distribution range of the species is subtropical to subantarctic oceans of the southern hemisphere. The range and total population have not been estimated or closely studied. Large populations are recorded off the western coasts of South America, where they are targeted by whaling operations; it is described as abundant in this region and off the coast of New Zealand. The range is associated with cold currents up the western and southern coasts of Africa, with a concentration recorded near Namibia.[2] The species is recorded with other cetaceans such as Lagenorhynchus obscurus, the dusky dolphin, and the pilot whale Globicephala macrorhynchus.[3] The southern right whale dolphin travels in groups of up to 1000 individuals, 52 being the average group size. The mass stranding of L. peronii on beaches, as many as 77, has been recorded.[2]

The species was first published by Bernard Germain de Lacépède in 1804. The genus Lissodelphis, is placed within Delphinidae, the oceanic dolphin family of cetaceans.[1] The name of the genus was derived from Greek lisso, smooth, and delphis. The specific epithet peronii commemorates François Péron, who saw the species near Tasmania during an expedition in 1800.[4] The common names for the species include southern right-whale dolphin and snake porpoise.[5] 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.[2]

This delphinid was not targeted by whaling operations of the nineteenth century, although it was sometimes caught for meat. The species is harvested by small fisheries in Peru, other threats include drowning and accidental capture in fishing operations elsewhere. Large numbers of L. peronii are sometimes taken by gillnetting and longline fishing in oceans off the southern coast of Australia.[2]

Southern right whale dolphins are presumably eaten by sharks and Orcinus orca. L. peronii itself preys on an undetermined range of fish, but is known to eat crustaceans, squid and species of myctophids. Their diet could possibly include euphausiids (krill). Little is known of their particular habits, and it is not known whether they search for their food near the surface or at greater depths.[2]

Characteristics[edit]

A French drawing from 1847

They have a streamlined body, a short, defined beak, no visible teeth, a single blowhole. They are black and white in colour, white underside. No dorsal fin. Fast active swimmer. Newborn calves are about 80–100 cm (31–39 in) in length. Adults are between 1.8–2.9 m (5 ft 11 in–9 ft 6 in). Females tend to be slightly longer than males. Adults weigh between 60–100 kg (130–220 lb). They eat fish, squid, and octopus.

Behaviour[edit]

Southern right whale dolphins are very graceful and often move by leaping out of the water continuously. When they swim slowly, they expose only a small area of the head and back when they surface to breathe. Breaching, belly-flopping, side-slapping and lob-tailing (slapping the flukes on the water surface) have been witnessed. They typically live in groups of between 2 and 100. Some groups are more nervous than others and will swim away from boats, whereas others will approach and possibly bow-ride. This tendency to bow-ride worked against them in the 19th century, as it allowed whalers to harpoon them from the bow and use them as food. Southern right whale dolphins are often seen in the company of hourglass dolphins.

Conservation[edit]

The southern right whale dolphin is included in the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia (Western African Aquatic Mammals MoU)[6] and the Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region (Pacific Cetaceans MoU).[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Lissodelphis peronii (Lacépède, 1804)". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Lissodelphis peronii". Species Profile and Threats Database. Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, Canberra. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  3. ^ "Lissodelphis borealis Right Whale Dolphin". MarineBio. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  4. ^ Fertl, Dagmar. "Southern Right Whale Dolphin". Whales & Whale Spotting. Retrieved 2009-07-16. 
  5. ^ "Lissodelphis peronii (Peale, 1848)". Encyclopedia of life. eol.org. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  6. ^ Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia
  7. ^ Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation of Cetaceans and Their Habitats in the Pacific Islands Region
  • 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 peronii. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 6 March 2009.
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