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These Two Dolphin Species Were Just Discovered & Need Saving

They were hiding in plain sight in Australia.

You think you know the ocean and then, bam! Two new species of dolphin show up just like that.

In the last decade, Australia learned that its coastal waters were home to two rare dolphin species. They were once thought to belong to already discovered dolphin families, but DNA testing and research revealed them to be their own thing.

The Australian snubfin dolphin was discovered properly in 2005, after years of being mistaken for the Irrawaddy dolphin, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

It's now known for it its "round melon head," per Whale and Dolphin Conservation. It gets its name from its small dorsal fin, doesn't really have a beak and has some rolls of blubber around its head.

Making it, oh, you know, ADORABLE.

The other species, discovered to be its own deal in 2014, is the Australian humpback dolphin.

Science magazine reported that it differs from the three other recognized humpback dolphin species because its dorsal fin is lower and has a darker gray "cape" on its back.

You can see all four species here.

From top to bottom, pictured is the Atlantic humpback dolphin, the Indian Ocean, the Indo-Pacific and the Australian humpback.

Both the Australian snubfin and the Australian humpback are classified as "vulnerable" with decreasing populations, per the IUCN Red List.

Basically, no sooner did marine biologists knew they existed than they also had to worry about their numbers.

These dolphins are poorly studied, and not much is known about their exact population counts. Both are thought to be under 10,000, and the Brisbane Times reported that the humpback species may be as low as 2,500.

The WDC noted that the snubfin is vulnerable to being accidentally caught in shark and fishing nets since it swims close to shore.

And, as reported by The Wilderness Society, a World Wildlife Fund study found that the dolphin is also prone to boat strikes. WWF examined 124 snubfins via photo and found that 63 percent had scars from boats and fishing gear.

The humpback species faces similar threats to the snubfin.

Australia's Department of Environment and Heritage Protection cites habitat loss, boat strikes, fishing gear entanglement and noise pollution as some of the factors that could lead to a further decline in population.

But, since not much is known about either species, more studies need to be done to determine true species count and any other threats they may face. That's where Dr. Daniele Cagnazzi from Southern Cross University's Marine Ecology Research Centre comes in.

The Brisbane Times reported that he's been monitoring these species for years and has contributed much of the research that exists about these dolphins. "They're not the easiest species to work on — they're very difficult, very shy, not easy to spot," he told the Times.

"We really take a lot of time and commitment to work on these species."

Cagnazzi's work is so important, especially since there hasn't even been that much time to study these animals as species in their own right and not much is known about them.

It just goes to show that you never know what is swimming out there. Seeker reported that the sea is still so unexplored that "up to eight species of whales and dolphins [are] yet to be identified."

Let's just hope they are before they get listed as vulnerable and decreasing in population.

There's nothing worse than finding a cool, new animal and then immediately learning that time is running out for it.


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