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  • Sousa chinensis

    Common Name: Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin

    Humpback dolphins (Sousa sp.): Two genetic variations of humpback dolphins occur along the Indian coastline,the Indian Ocean humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea) along the west coast and the Indo Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) by the east coast. As genetic studies provide newer results this might change further. We shall keep you updated!

    General Description:

    The Indo Pacific humpback dolphin is a large cetacean with a slender beak and a slight melon on the forehead. It has rounded flippers. The small but prominent dorsal fin is placed on a small hump in the middle of the back. This platform for the fin is not as distinctive in the chinensis as it is in plumbea, and is almost absent in the animals in the South China Sea. There are marked keels above and below the tailstock. There is a distinct notch between the tail flukes, which are moderately concave along the rear edge.

    The colour of the species is highly variable, but specimens off east India are light grey with predominantly pink pigmentation on the skin surface. Longitudinal blotches are found on the ventral side in larger specimens. The lower jaw may be cream coloured. Calves have a uniform pale cream colouration.

    Size: Adults, Male Hump-backed Dolphins may be 3.2 m long, and females up to 2.5 m. They weigh up to 285 kg. Calves at birth, 90 cm long.

    Appearance At Sea: Hump-backed Dolphins surface to breathe in a very distinctive way. The beak emerges from the water first, and then the melon and hump. As it breathes, the animal cruises with the beak just on the water surface. Sometimes the head is lifted clear of the water and the hump and fin are clearly visible then. Finally the dolphin rolls, its head going down and the hump emerging more, before sliding out of view.

    The usual social unit consists of a group of 2-20 who move together in an orderly fashion.Small groups of Hump-backed Dolphins often associate with large groups of Bottlenose Dolphins.

    This species is said to cooperate with Mauritanian fishermen in catching mullet. The men beat the water with a stick on seeing a school of these fish. This attracts Hump-backed Dolphins and other dolphins, which drive the fish towards shore and into the fishermen’s nets.

    Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) from Orissa, east India, showing a small fin on a reduced hump and loss of pigmentation in adults. A robust body with pronounced beak, is a common coastal species in India. @ Dipani Sutaria

    Hump-backed Dolphins can heave themselves over mudbanks to get from one channel of water to another.

    Found In: The Indo-Pacific Hump-backed Dolphin prefers to feed close to shore and in tidal creeks. It may enter rivers and estuaries. It is usually found in sheltered coastal waters including mangrove swamps. It is said to be seen in shallow waters less than 20 m deep and rarely out of sight of land.

    Hump-backed Dolphin generally feeds on fish, molluscs and crustaceans.

    Early Records from India: This species is common in the coastal waters of east India. It is frequently caught in fishermen’s nets.

    Date: [?]
    Details : Skull from Visakhapatnam in the British Museum, gifted by Sir Walter Elliot.
    Sources : De Silva, 1987

    Date: [?]
    Details : Stranding at Waltair, Vizagapatam, reported by Blanford.
    Sources: De Silva, 1987

    Date : [?]
    Details : Mounted specimen in the Museum d’Histoire Naturelle, Laboratoire d’Anatomie Comparee, France.
    Sources : De Silva, 1987

    Date : [?]
    Details : Two skulls in the Bombay Natural History Society
    Sources : De Silva, 1987

    Date : 18 September 1854
    Details : Sightings off Visakhapatnam.
    Sources : De Silva, 1987

    Date : 1866 [?]
    Details : “Delphinus lentiginosus” described by Owen from Walter Elliot’s collections made on the East coast.
    Sources : Jerdon, 1867

    Date : April 1982
    Details : Sightings northeast of the Andaman Islands.
    Sources : De Silva, 1987

    Date : January–March 1983
    Details : Four specimens washed ashore at Gahirmatha Beach, Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Orissa
    Sources : James et al., 1989

    Date : January–March 1984
    Details : Three specimens washed ashore at Gahirmatha Beach, Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Orissa.
    Sources : James et al., 1989

    Date : January–March 1985
    Details : Two specimens washed ashore at Gahirmatha Beach, Bhitarkanika Wildlife Sanctuary, Orissa.
    Sources : James et al., 1989

    Date : 5 February 1985
    Details : One washed ashore near Mandapam, Palk Bay.
    Sources : Krishna Pillai & Kasinathan, 1988

    Date : January–March 1987
    Details : Four specimens washed ashore at Gahirmatha Beach, Bhitarkanika.
    Sources : James et al., 1989

    Date : 18 June 1990
    Details : One female washed ashore at Mandapam Camp, Gulf of Mannar.
    Sources : Krishna Pillai et al., 1991

    Date : 24 January 1991
    Details : Female specimen landed at Tuticorin.
    Sources : Arumugam et al., 1992

    Date : [?]
    Details : “A few specimens” reported from Porto Novo.
    Sources : Kumaran & Subramanian, 1993

    Date : 11 July 1993
    Details : Eight dolphins stranded at Tuticorin Major Harbour.
    Sources : Mohamad Kasim et al., 1994

    Date : 16 February 1994
    Details : Female with foetus caught in drift gillnet off Tuticorin.
    Sources : Arumugam et al., 1995

    Date : 15 September 1994
    Details : Carcass at Mandapam Camp, Gulf of Mannar.
    Sources : Lipton et al., 1995

    This species is recorded from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Djibouti, the Gulf of Oman, the Gulf of Aden, the Arabian Gulf and the Red Sea.

    World Distribution: The Hump-backed Dolphin is widely distributed in the warm temperate and tropical waters of the Indian and the western Pacific Oceans.

    Could Be Confused With: Hump-backed Dolphins are very easy to identify because of the characteristic hump and distinctive way of breathing. However, individuals without conspicous hump could be confused with Indian Ocean humpback dolphin and with Bottlenose Dolphins as they have a similar body shape.

    Diagnostic Features: At sea, prominent dorsal fin placed on hump in the middle of the back; long, slender beak. Pink pigmentation and light coloured body.

    Stranded Specimens: A dead adult can be easily identified by its hump and number of teeth. There may be 29 to 38 pairs of peg-like teeth in each jaw. Bottlenose Dolphins with which Hump-backed Dolphins are sometimes confused have not more than 26 teeth in each side of both jaws.

    Humpback Dolphin

    Size comparison against an average human

    Scientific Classification

    Kingdom Animalia
    Phylum Chordata
    Class Mammalia
    Subclass Eutheria
    Order Cetacea
    Suborder Odontoceti
    Family Delphinidae
    Genus Sousa


    See text

    Pacific Humpback Dolphin (Chinese White Dolphin) range

    Indian Humpback Dolphin range

    Atlantic Humpback Dolphin range

    Source: Wikipedia