Rare Snubfin dolphin spotted off coast of Australia [photos]

By Staff Writer | Sep 22, 2015 | 06:42 AM EDT
Rare Snubfin dolphin spotted off coast of Australia

A rare type of Australian dolphin was seen on the waters of the country's Queensland coast.

The incredibly rare cetacean, the Australian snubfin dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni) was spotted by Queensland National Parks Ranger Emma Schmidt. The dolphin was seen in the waters of the Hinchinbrook Island National Park, according to the Discovery News.

After seeing and snapping a photo of the dolphin, Schmidt posted it on Facebook.

Don’t blink—it’s a rare Australian snubfin dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni)!!!Ranger Emma just spotted little snubby here...

Posted by Queensland National Parks on Wednesday, September 9, 2015

"We were heading to Sunken Reef Bay and I noticed a pod of about 10 Indo-Pacific humpback dolphins and among them was this cute little snubby," Schmidt told Townsville Bulletin. "It was playing and mucking around jumping out of the water and in the photo it looks like it's smiling."

Schmidt added that the encounter was "very rare" and that the captured photo was caught by "pure luck." Since working as a ranger in the park, Schmidt has only seen the dolphins twice. She added that the animals are hard to encounter even when the Hinchinbrook Channel was where you could find them.

"They like the sheltered inshore waters rather than out of the reef," said Schmidt. "They are very shy, but there is one charter operator who regularly sees a pod,"

According to Daily Mail, Australian snubfin dolphins are very sociable mammals and can only be found in northern Australia within the region of Queensland. They got their namesake from the triangle-shaped dorsal fin on their body. They have round heads and can grow up to 1.5 m to 2.7 meters and have a variety of colors including white and grey.

The snubfin dolphins hang out in a pod of only up to 100 dolphins. According to World Wildlife Fun (WWF)-Australia's species national manager, Darren Grover, the "snubbies" are endangered and in need of protection.

"We don't exactly know how many of them there are, so we don't really know if they are in reasonable numbers and doing okay or if they are in low numbers and under pressure," said Grover via Mashable. "[But] different populations don't interact, so if anything was to happen to a population of snubfin dolphins in a particular bay and they were wiped out, there wouldn't be new dolphins that would come back into that area. They would be gone forever."

The report adds that the mammals were discovered in 2005 and was mistaken as an Irrawady dolphin. The most unique feature of snubfin dolphins is their abilities to spit water at their prey.

"It's incredibly unusual behavior that has only been noted before in Irrawaddy dolphins," said WWF Australia's marine and coasts manager, Lydia Gibson. "It's a bizarre kind of technique. Some were seen spitting water high into the air and [others] straight along the surface of the water. It's a fascinating behavior, but we still know so little about them and about exactly how they do it."

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