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Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin

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Title: Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin  
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Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin[1]
Conservation status
Binomial name
Sousa chinensis
(Osbeck, 1765)
Chinensus-type range
Plumbea-type range

The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin (Sousa chinensis) is a species of humpback dolphin that is found in coastal waters ranging from southern Africa in the west to northern Australia and southeast Asia to the east.[2] The Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin is regarded as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).[2]

Range and habitat

There are two varieties, regarded by some biologists as separate subspecies:

  • Chinensis-type (Chinese white dolphin) is the eastern variety, found in Southeast Asia and northern Australia
  • Plumbea-type is found in western variety, found along the eastern coast of Africa and the northern Indian Ocean along the southern coast of the Middle East through India.[2]

However, DNA testing has indicated that the Chinensis-type dolphins from Southeast Asia are more closely related to the Plumbea-type dolphins than they are to the Chinensis-type dolphins from Australia.[2]

The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin is a coastal species, generally staying within a few miles of the shore and preferring water less than 20 metres (66 ft) deep.[3][4] Sometimes it enter rivers, but usually does not swim far upstream.[3]


The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolpin is a medium sized dolphin that ranges in length from 2 to 2.8 metres (6.6 to 9.2 ft) and in weight from 150 to 200 kilograms (330 to 440 lb).[3] Plumbea-type dolphins have a fatty hump on the back, while Chinensis-type dolphins have a more prominent dorsal fin, but no hump.[3]

Different varieties have different coloration, although young dolphins are generally gray, with darker gray above than below.[4] Plumbea-type adults are generally dark gray.[4] Chinensis-type adults from Australia are generally light gray above and lighter, possibly with some spotting, below, and as the dolphins age the rostrum, melon and dorsal fin get lighter.[4] Chinensis-type adults from South China are generally white with dark spots on the sides, although the white portions appear to be pink because of blood flow beneath the skin.[4]

Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphins can appear similar to conspecific Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, but the bottlenose dolphins lack the hump of Plumbea-type humpbacked dolphins.[3] And all humpbacked dolphins have a distinctive motion when surfacing, in that it surfaces at a 30 to 45 degree angle with the rostrum, and sometimes the full head, showing before arching its back and sometimes showing its flukes.[3]

Life history

The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin is most often found in schools of less than 10 dolphins.[4] It eats a wide variety of fish and, in some areas, cephalopods, but it rarely eats crustaceans.[2]

For the Hong Kong population, births mostly occur between January and August.[4] Newborn calves are about 1 metre (3.3 ft) long.[3] Females become sexual mature at about 10 years old.[4]

Interactions with other cetaceans

The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin coexists over much of its range with the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, which also lives in coastal areas.[3][4] It has been known to associate with the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin.[3][4] It sometimes forms mixed schools with the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin, at times the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin is aggressive towards the humpbacked dolphin, and is able to dominate the humpbacked dolphin.[4] The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin has been occasionally observed associating with the snubfin dolphin and in these interactions the humpbacked dolphin tends to be the aggressor.[4] Interactions may also occur with the long-snouted spinner dolphin and the finless porpoise.[3]

Interactions with humans

The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin has occasionally been kept in captivity.[4] Currently, Indo-Pacific humpacked dolphins perform at Underwater World, Singapore.[5] Dolphin watching trips to see the these dolphins occur in Hong Kong and Australia.[6]

The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin is listed as near threatened by the IUCN.[2][4] The Taiwan population is considered critically endangered.[4] The Indo-Pacific humpbacked dolphin sometimes gets caught in fishing nets.[4]


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