A new bottlenose dolphin subspecies has been discovered in the eastern Pacific ocean. Ana Costa, a marine researcher with the Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric, and Earth Science at the University of Miami, with her colleagues, discovered a new subspecies of dolphins. They concluded that the new subspecies are much smaller than other bottlenose dolphins. They have named the new subspecies Eastern Tropical Pacific (ETP) bottlenose dolphin, or Tursiops truncatus nuuanu if you want to be scientific about it.
While bottlenose dolphins are seen as one species (Tursiops truncatus), scientists have noticed various differences in other locations. These differences include ecological and habitat preferences. Since 2016, Costa and her team have collected data on different bottlenose dolphin groups. They compared the total body length and skull morphology of 135 dolphins, including those in museum collections. Through multivariate and clustering analyses, they were able to examine the differences amongst the various populations.
Costa said, “The ETP bottlenose dolphins might be differentiating due to the distinct environmental conditions in these waters, such as oxygen and salinity levels and temperature conditions.” According to the researcher, she believes that the more we know about these subspecies, the better we will be able to protect them. Through her study, we now know that there are various bottlenose dolphin subspecies, some still evolving.
Bottlenose dolphins in the eastern Pacific Ocean occupy various waterscapes. This leads them to have varied habitats. These different locations they occupy affect their evolution, physically and genetically. With our vast ocean, it’s hard to tell how many subspecies we are missing or still need to discover. It’s not so hard to believe that there lives a species of bottlenose dolphins that are different.