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Fraser, 1956 - Fraser's dolphin

Distinctive Characteristics

For a decade and half, this species was known only from skeletal material, until it was “rediscovered” in the early 1970's. It is a distinctive dolphin, with a stocky body and extremely small appendages. The short dorsal fin is triangular or slightly falcate. There is a very stubby, but well-defined, beak.

The colour pattern is striking; the most distinctive feature is a dark band of varying thickness, running from the face to the anus (in some regions, the band is indistinct). This band is scarcely apparent on young animals, and appears to widen and darken with age in some animals. There is also a flipper stripe that starts at midlength along the lower jaw (in some animals the side stripe is so wide that it merges with the flipper stripe, creating a dark face mask). Otherwise, the back is dark brownish grey, the lower sides are cream coloured, and the belly is white or pink. Young animals in particular may have pinkish bellies.

There are 38 to 44 pairs of sharp teeth in each jaw.

Can be confused with

The unique body shape of Fraser's dolphin should rule-out confusion with other species, but striped dolphins, which also have an eye-to-anus stripe, Can be confused with Fraser's at a distance.

Size

Maximum size is at least 2.7m. They may reach weights of over 210 kg. Newborns are less than 1 m long.

Geographical Distribution

Fraser's dolphin has a pantropical distribution, largely between 30°N and 30°S. It is an oceanic species, but can be seen near shore where deep water approaches the coast.

Biology and Behaviour

There is little known of this tropical and subtropical species. Herds tend to be large, consisting of hundreds or even thousands of dolphins, often mixed with other species, especially melon-headed whales in the eastern tropical Pacific, Philippines and Gulf of Mexico, and Risso's dolphins and spinner dolphins in the Philippines. In some areas, it is considered shy and difficult to approach; in others it is a bit more approachable. It does not bowride in the eastern tropical Pacific, but it does in most other areas. Running herds create a great deal of white water.

There is not much known of reproductive biology.

Fraser's dolphins appear to feed on mid-water fish, squid, and crustaceans.

Exploitation

Catches in various fisheries throughout the range are known; however, none appear to be seriously affecting numbers. A few have been captured live and some killed in harpoon and net fisheries in the Philippines. They are occasionally takenin the Japanese drive fishery, and some are taken in Sri Lanka, the Caribbean, and Indonesia.

IUCN Status

Insufficiently known.

Fraser's dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei)