Taxonomic revision of the humpback dolphins (Sousa spp.), and description of a new species from Australia


Jefferson, Thomas A. and Rosenbaum, Howard C.



Secondary Title

Marine Mammal Science








taxonomy, systematics, phylogenetics, Sousa chinensis, Sousa teuszii, Sousa plumbea, new species, type description


The taxonomy of the humpback dolphin genus Sousa has been controversial and unsettled for centuries, but recent work indicates that there are several valid species. A review of multiple lines of evidence from skeletal morphology, external morphology, coloration, molecular genetics, and biogeography, in combination provides strong support for the recognition of four species of Sousa. These include S. teuszii (Kükenthal, 1892), a species with uniform gray coloration and a prominent dorsal hump, which is found in the Atlantic Ocean off West Africa. The species S. plumbea (G. Cuvier, 1829) has similar external appearance to S. teuszii, but has a more pointed dorsal fin. It occurs in the Indian Ocean from South Africa to Myanmar (Burma). The original taxon, S. chinensis (Osbeck, 1765), is reserved for the species that has a larger dorsal fin with no prominent hump, and largely white adult coloration. It ranges from eastern India to central China and throughout Southeast Asia. Finally, we describe a new species of Sousa, the Australian humpback dolphin, which occurs in the waters of the Sahul Shelf from northern Australia to southern New Guinea. It has a lower dorsal fin, more extensive dark color on the body, and a dorsal “cape.” It is separated from the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin by a wide distributional gap that coincides with Wallace’ s Line.