London, Nov 22 : Using DNA analysis, scientists have confirmed the discovery of a new third species of bottlenose dolphin in the waters off southern Australia, which is the only second new dolphin to be discovered in 50 years.
According to a report in New Scientist, Luciana Moller of the Marine Mammal Research Group at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and her colleagues, found the new species of dolphin.
The team was studying populations of what they thought were Indo-Pacific and common bottlenoses in southern waters.
DNA analysis, though, revealed that most the animals living close to the shores of the states of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania were in fact a new species, belonging to a new genus.
"They look very like the Indo-Pacific species, but genetically they're very different," said Moller.
The team has called the new species the Southern Australian bottlenose. It is awaiting a scientific name after a formal description.
Based on their genetic analyses, the researchers think it is in fact more closely related to the Fraser's dolphin, which lives in deep waters mostly in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
According to Moller, since dolphins diverged only between 5 million and 2 million years ago, different species can look morphologically very similar.
Given the animal's apparent preference for coastal waters subject to pollution, fishing and other potential threats, its status now needs urgent further investigation, she said.
The last new dolphin to be discovered was the Australian snubfin, in 2005. Before that, it was the Fraser's dolphin, in 1956.