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Investigation on the population identity of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins in the northern Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh and implications for population-level conservation and taxonomy of the species

 

Principal Investigator: Brian Smith, Wildlife Conservation Society

Funding year: 2011

Main objectives:

 

  • Determine the population identity of humpback dolphins in Bangladesh.

  • Evaluate the implications of genetic results on the taxonomy of the species complex.
     
  • Build local capacity to conduct molecular studies on cetaceans.
     
  • Contribute scientific information needed for the conservation management of humpback dolphins.

 

Main outcomes:

 

  • A total of 56 humpback dolphin sightings was made while searching along almost 4,000 km in about 940 km2 of open estuarine waters in the Bay of Bengal between the Sundarbans mangrove forest and the Swatch-of-No Ground submarine canyon.
  • Of these 14 skin biopsy samples were collected. The samples proved difficult to obtain due to the dolphins’ unpredictable behaviour and the turbid conditions of their habitat which makes it impossible to track them below the surface.
  • A preliminary mtDNA analysis indicates a genetically unique population with no shared haplotypes among extensive samples from the genus. The results of a nuclear analysis are pending.
  • Together these analyses will be included as part of a revised IUCN Red List assessment for the Sousa genus scheduled for May 2015 in advance of the IWC meeting in San Diego.

Reports/Papers:

Smith et al. Investigation on the population identity of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins (Sousa chinensis) in the northern Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh and implications for population-level conservation and taxonomy of the species. Final Report. Click here to read.