Scientists from the Wildfire Conservation Society (WCS), the American Museum of Natural History and other groups, who set out to determine the number of distinct types of humpbacks, claimed that while the Atlantic humpback dolphin was already known, the Indo-Pacific variety should be broken up into different species.
"Based on the findings of our combined morphological and genetic analyses, we can suggest that the humpback dolphin genus includes at least four member species," said lead author Martin Mendez, assistant director of the WCS Latin America and the Caribbean Program.
"This discovery helps our understanding of the evolutionary history of this group and informs conservation policies to help safeguard each of the species."
The four kinds of humpback dolphins include the Atlantic (Sousa teuszii) and the Indo-Pacific (Sousa plumbea) and another type of Indo-Pacific (Sousa chinensis). The fourth species has not yet been named.
"New information about distinct species across the entire range of humpback dolphins will increase the number of recognised species, and provides the needed scientific evidence for management decisions aimed at protecting their unique genetic diversity and associated important habitats," said Howard Rosenbaum, director of the WCS Ocean Giants Program.
The team, who used 180 skulls gathered from beached dolphins and museum specimens to reach their conclusion, published their findings in Molecular Technology.
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