This is the third type of bottlenose dolphin and was only identified in 2011. Until this point in time, it was thought that all Burrunan dolphins were either common bottlenose dolphins or indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins. Scientists used examinations of their skulls, DNA evidence and a direct comparison of their external characteristics to confirm that there are actually enough differences for them to be classed as their own species.
The Burrunan dolphin is a dark blue-grey on top, with a lighter band of grey extending down its sides. Its belly is nearly white in comparison and this color sometimes extends as far as the eye in some individual dolphins. Burrunan dolphins can measure anywhere from 7 to 9 feet in length, making them larger than the common bottlenose dolphin but smaller than the indo-pacific bottlenose dolphin.
There is relatively little which is known about the Burrunan dolphin since it has only been officially recognized as a species for a very short amount of time. It has not had its own classification for long enough for any real research to be carried out, but it is believed that it shares much in common with the other two species of bottlenose dolphin.
Scientists believe that they have similar gestation periods, life expectancies and social patterns. Just like the other two species of bottlenose dolphins, Burrunan dolphins are regularly seen riding bow waves and performing impressive aerial displays to those on board boats.
The Burrunan dolphin gets its name from a word in the Bonwurrung, Woiwurrung and Taungurung aboriginal languages. It means simply ‘large sea fish of the porpoise kind’. Obviously, this is factually incorrect as the Burrunan dolphin, just like all dolphins, is a mammal and not a fish.
The low level of research conducted so far into the behavior and characteristics of the Burrunan dolphin means that only two resident populations have actually been formally identified. These have both been spotted off the coast of Australia, with one residing around Port Phillip and the other near Gippsland Lakes. The total number of Burrunan dolphins ever recorded is just 150, making it one of the rarest species of dolphin on the planet today. The incredibly low number of dolphins which have been identified as Burrunans means that they species immediately qualified for protection under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.