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

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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Geographic Range

Lissodelphis peronii, the southern right whale dolphin, has a circumpolar distribution. It is found only in cool, temperate subtropical to subantarctic waters of the Southern Hemisphere. The southern limit of this species' distribution is generally bounded by the Antarctic Convergence. The northward counterclockwise flowing Humboldt and Benguela current systems may allow this coldwater species to extend its range northward along the west coast of the Southern Hemisphere continents. The northernmost record is at 12 degrees S. in northern Peru. This is an open ocean species coming close to shore only in deep water coastal areas. (Jefferson et al., 1993; Jefferson et al., 1994)

Biogeographic Regions: ethiopian (Native ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Native )

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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

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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Ecology

Habitat

cool temperate to subantarctic, oceanic
  • UNESCO-IOC Register of Marine Organisms
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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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Southern right whale dolphins reside most often in cool, deep, offshore waters of the Southern Hemisphere with temperatures of 1-20 degrees celsius. They are sometimes observed nearshore, especially where deep water approaches the coast. (Jefferson et al., 1994)

Aquatic Biomes: coastal

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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

Food Habits

Southern right whale dolphins prey primarily on mesopelagic fishes, especially lanternfish, (family Myctophidae) and cephalopods such as squid. They may dive to depths in excess of 200 m in search of food. Entire schools have been observed to dive for as long as 6 minutes and 30 seconds. (Jefferson et al., 1994; Nowak, 1991)

Animal Foods: fish; mollusks

Primary Diet: carnivore (Piscivore )

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Life History and Behavior

Reproduction

Unfortunately almost nothing is known of the reproductive biology of the southern right whale dolphin. Mature females were measured at 229 cm and 218 cm, while a mature male was measured at 251 cm. A near term fetus was measured at 102 cm in a stranded female in 1988. (Jefferson et al., 1994)

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Conservation

Conservation Status

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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Preliminary boat surveys suggest that the southern right whale dolphin may be one of the most common cetaceans in northern Chilean coastal waters. Increasing numbers of southern right whale dolphins have stranded on beaches of north-central Chile in the last few years, some have been returned to sea alive, but it is not known if they survived.

It is not confirmed, but likely that killer whales and possibly large sharks are predators for the southern right whale dolphin. (Jefferson et al., 1994; Jefferson et al., 1993; Joint Nature Conservation Committee, 1993)

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: data deficient

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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

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

None.

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Southern right whale dolphins are reportedly infrequently caught off the coasts of Peru and Chile, where they are used as food or crab bait. (Jefferson et al., 1994)

They were occasionally taken for food by whalers in the 1800's, although now they appear to be nowhere heavily hunted. (Jefferson et al., 1993)

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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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