– Species: Southern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis peronii) x Dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus)
– Parentage: unknown, possibly sire x dam
– Status in the wild: very likely | Status in captivity: absent
It seemed only fair that the first official illustration should be of the hybrid that started it all. This most charismatic of hybrids, the dolphin that shouldn’t have a dorsal fin – and yet does. It’s one of the few wild hybrids to be described in scientific literature but has also been observed by private individuals, most notably whale-watchers off Kaikoura, New Zealand. Since no DNA tests have been done their status is not certain. But the strong known association between the presumed parent species, and the intermediate features make the hybrid ‘very likely’. Hybrids have been seen in mixed species groups as well as the sole company of Dusky dolphins, making this the possible maternal parent species.
I find the right whale dolphin hybrid especially interesting because they combine a very stark black-and-white pattern with more subtle markings. Without photographs it would be hard to guess what colouration would dominate. As it turns out: Lissodelphis does. The Lagenorhynchus side of the arrangement is only found in the faint hint of a blaze on the flank, a dark marking on the beak, the separate eyespot, the faint grey on the shoulder, and of course that two-toned dorsal fin, albeit diminished in size and shape from the original. Note also the pectoral fins which have a most interesting shape. Lissodelphis have very unusual, elongated sickle-shaped pectorals and although somewhat normalised, the shape is still clearly present in the hybrid.
Multiple existing photographs, albeit of varying quality, make this one of the better documented wild hybrids. Very little guesswork was undertaken in the creation of this illustration, mostly with the colouration of the flukes.
• REFERENCES •
– Yadzi, P. (2002). A possible hybrid between the dusky dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) and the southern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis peronii). Aquatic Mammals, 28(2), 211-217.
– Benegas, R. J., Orri, R. D., Pettite, L., Castello, H. P. 2000. Sighting and video recording of a possible hybrid dolphin between Lagenorhynchus obscurus and Lissodelphis peronii at Golfo Nuevo, Pla. Valdés, Chubut, Argentina. Abstracts of the 7th International American Cetacean Society Meeting, (Monterey).
– Several photographs taken by private individuals.