Sousa sahulensis is a new species of Australian humpback dolphin which was recently described from what is now a pool of four species of the marine mammals. Fore nearly two centuries questions existed about the exact nature of the population of humpback dolphins with the Australian humpback dolphin being the latest newly recognized species.
The new Australian Humpback dolphin is known only from the east coast of Australia and with its splitting from the rest of the humpback dolphin population, it is realized that this recognized species is likely threatened with only a few thousand individuals likely making up the entire species. The most remarkable part of the story of Sousa sahulensis is that for many years it was up for debate whether it actually is a distinct species, and it took a few generations of scientists and data collection to ascertain that is actually separate from other humpback dolphins.
This kind of news makes us wonder what other types of reef animals, notably large fish with wide ranges could indeed constitute different species but their identical coloration and morphology precludes us from being able to discern their true ecological nature. The Indian Ocean regal angelfish and emperor angelfish come to mind, as well as pacific and indian ocean regal blue tangs. Time will tell if there is more to be discovered in wide ranging reef fish but in the meanwhile, let’s hope this discovery of a new humpback dolphin species will afford it a greater level of study and conservation.