Lissodelphis peronii (Lacépède,1804)
English: Southern right-whale dolphin
German: Südlicher Glattdelphin
Spanish: Delfín liso austral
French: Dauphin aptère austral
Lissodelohis peronii © Würtz-Artescienza (see "links")
Right whale dolphins are easy to identify at sea because of their
distinctive black and white colour and lack of dorsal fin. The southern
right whale dolphin has a white ventral patch, which extends high
on the posterior flanks. Its back is black, and the white area reaches
a high point midway along the body, dipping down at the flipper
insertion and covering most of the head and rostrum. Newborn calves
are first brown or dark grey and attain adult coloration after the
first year of life (Lipsky, 2009). Rarely, melanistic southern right-whale
dolphins are observed, e.g. off Kaikoura, New Zealand (Visser et
al. 2004), and there have also been observation of all white and
partial white, dark or grey animals. Size reaches ca. 3 m, males
growing larger than females, and body mass reaches up to 116 kg
The southern right whale dolphin is circumpolar in the Subantarctic
Zone, mainly between 40°S and 55°S. It ranges north to 25°S
off São Paulo in Brazil, 23°S in the Benguela Current
off Walvis Bay in Namibia, the Great Australian Bight, the Tasman
Sea, the Chatham Islands, and 12°30'S in the Humboldt Current
off Pucusana in Peru (Rice, 1998; Clarke, 2000).
Distribution of Lissodelphis peronii:
deep, cold temperate waters of the southern hemisphere
(Hammond et al. 2008; © IUCN; enlarge
L. peronii remains almost exclusively in temperate
waters, with most records from north of the Antarctic Convergence.
It frequently follows the cold Humboldt Current into subtropical
latitudes, as far north as the northernmost record of 12°S off
Peru. The southernmost limit of the range varies with sea temperatures
from year to year. The species seems to be fairly common in the
Falklands Current between Patagonia and the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)
and is believed to occur across the southern Indian Ocean following
the West-wind Drift (Jefferson et al. 1994; Carwardine, 1995; Jefferson
et al. 1993).
3. Population size
There are no estimates of abundance for the southern right whale
dolphin, and virtually nothing is known of the subpopulation structure
or status of the species (Hammond et al. 2008). Preliminary boat
surveys and the rapid accumulation of stranding and fishery interaction
records in northern Chile suggest that it may be one of the most
common cetaceans in this region (Jefferson et al. 1994 and refs.
therein; Van Waerebeek et al. 1991). Aguayo et al. (1998) reported
that L. peronii is very common between Valparaiso and 76°W,
i.e. just off the Chilean coast. Observed at sea many times to the
southeast of New Zealand (Ross, 2006).
4. Biology and Behaviour
Behaviour: L. peronii often travels very fast in
a series of long, low leaps; the overall impression is of a bouncing
motion rather like a fast-swimming penguin. It sometimes swims slowly,
causing little disturbance of the water and exposing only a small
part of its head and dark back when surfacing to breathe. Breaching
(but with no twisting or turning in the air), belly-flopping, side-slapping,
and lobtailing have been observed. Dives may last 6 minutes or more.
Some schools will allow close approach, but others flee from boats.
Small groups will bow-ride on rare occasions (Carwardine, 1995).
Habitat: Southern right whale dolphins are observed most
often in cool, deep, offshore waters with temperatures of 1-20°C.
L. peronii is seldom seen near land except in sufficiently
deep water; however, it is known to occur in coastal waters off
Chile and near New Zealand where water is deeper than 200 m (Jefferson
et al. 1994; Carwardine, 1995; Jefferson et al. 1993).
Schooling: Large schools are characteristic. Some estimates
of group size range to over 1,000 animals. Associations with other
marine mammal species are common, especially dusky dolphins and
pilot whales (Jefferson et al. 1993). Mean herd size is 210 individuals
for southern right whale dolphins off Chile (Van Waerebeek et al.
Off Kaikoura, New Zealand, mixed-species groups included common
delphis), dusky dolphins (Lagenorhynchus
obscurus) long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala
melas), and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops
truncatus) (Markowitz, 2004).
Food: A variety of fish and squid have been reported as
prey; lanternfish are especially common (Jefferson et al. 1993).
Reproduction: In Golfo Nuevo, Peninsula Valdes, Argentina,
an unusual dolphin was sighted several times, always associated
with dusky dolphins (L. obscurus). Photographic and behavioural
evidence showed that the anomalous dolphin shared characteristics
of the southern right whale dolphin and the dusky dolphin and may
have been a hybrid (Yazdi, 2002).
There is some suggestion of inshore and northward summer movements
by southern right whale dolphins from sighting records off South
Africa; however other authors suggested that southern right whale
dolphins may be year-round residents off Namibia, southern Africa
(Rose and Payne, 1991). Although the sample size is still small,
more fresh specimens and sighting records have been registered north
of 25°S off western South America in July-September than in
all other months combined, suggesting a northern migration in the
austral winter and spring (Jefferson et al. 1994 and refs. therein;
van Waerebeek et al. 1991).
Direct catch: Southern right whale dolphins are reportedly
infrequently caught off the coasts of Peru and Chile, where they
are used for human consumption or crab bait (Jefferson et al. 1994
and refs. therein).
Incidental catch: The only incidental catch of any magnitude
that is known is in the swordfish gillnet fishery off Chile (Hammond
et al. 2008), an ongoing problem. Peddemors (1999) reported that
L. peronii appears to be extremely localised in distribution
within southern Africa, and any future planned expansion of commercial
driftnet fisheries off Namibia should be carefully monitored for
incidental catches which may impact this population.
Range states (Hammond et al. 2008):
Argentina; Australia; Bouvet Island; Brazil; Chile; Falkland Islands
(Malvinas); French Southern Territories (the); Mozambique; Namibia;
New Zealand; Peru; Saint Helena (Ascension, Tristan da Cunha); South
Africa; South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands; Uruguay.
L. peronii is listed as "Data Deficient" by the
IUCN (Hammond et al. 2008). It is not listed by CMS. The species
is listed on Appendix II of CITES.
Migrations along the coast of South America and Southern Africa
suggest that national boundaries might be crossed. Therefore, inclusion
in CMS Appendix II is recommended.
This is a poorly known species which seems to be threatened mainly
by driftnet fisheries in Chilean and South African waters. Because
no population estimates are available, mortality rates and their
effect on the population are unknown. More research is clearly needed.
For South American stocks, see further recommendations in Hucke-Gaete
(2000 in Appendix
· Aguayo A, Bernal R, Olavarria C, Vallejos
V, Hucke R (1998) Cetacean observations carried out between Valparaiso
and Easter Island, Chile, in the winters of 1993, 1994 and 1995.
Rev Biol Mar Ocean 33: 101-123.
· Carwardine M (1995) Whales, dolphins and porpoises. Dorling
Kindersley, London, UK, 257 pp.
· Clarke, RH (2000) First record of the southern right whale
dolphin, Lissodelphis peronii
· (Lacepede, 1804) (Odonoceti: Delphinidae), from waters
off South Australia. Trans R Soc
· S Aust 124: 177-178.
· Hammond PS, Bearzi G, Bjørge A, Forney K, Karczmarski
L, Kasuya T, Perrin WF, Scott MD, Wang JY, Wells RS, Wilson B (2008)
Lissodelphis peronii. In: IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened
Species. Version 2009.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>.
· Hucke-Gaete R (ed.) (2000) Review on the conservation status
of small cetaceans in southern South America. UNEP/CMS Secretariat,
Bonn, Germany, 24 pp.
· Jefferson TA, Leatherwood S, Webber MA (1993) FAO Species
identification guide. Marine mammals of the world. UNEP/FAO, Rome,
· Jefferson TA, Newcomer MW, Leatherwood S, van Waerebeek
K (1994) Right wale dolphins - Lissodelphis borealis (Peale,
1848) and Lissodelphis peronii (Lacépède, 1804).
In: Handbook of Marine Mammals (Ridgway SH, Harrison SR, eds.) Vol.
5: The first book of dolphins. Academic Press, London, pp. 335-362.
· Lipsky JD (2009) Right whale dolphins - Lissodelphis
borealis and L. peronii. In: Encyclopedia of marine mammals,
2nd Ed.(Perrin WF, Würsig B, Thewissen JGM, eds.) Academic
Press, Amsterdam, pp. 958-962.
· Markowitz TM (2004) Social organization of the New Zealand
dusky dolphin. Diss Abst Int Pt B Sci & Eng 65: 2200
· Peddemors VM (1999) Delphinids of southern Africa: A review
of their distribution, status and life history. J Cetacean Res Manag
· Rice DW (1998) Marine mammals of the world: systematics
and distribution. Society for Marine Mammalogy, Spec Publ 4, Lawrence,
· Rose B, Payne AIL (1991) Occurrence and behavior of the
southern right whale dolphin Lissodelphis peronii off Namibia.
Mar Mamm Sci 7: 25-34.
· Ross GJB (2006) Review of the conservation status of Australia's
smaller whales and dolphins. Australian Government. 124 pp.
· Van Waerebeek K, Canto J, Gonzalez J, Oporto J, Brito JL
(1991) Southern right whale dolphins, Lissodelphis peronii
off the Pacific coast of South America. Z Säugetier 56: 284-295
· Visser IN, Fertl D, Pusser LT (2004) Melanistic southern
right-whale dolphins (Lissodelphis peronii) off Kaikoura,
New Zealand, with records of other anomalously all-black cetaceans.
N Z J Mar Freshwat Res 38: 833-836
· Yazdi, P (2002) A possible hybrid between the dusky dolphin
(Lagenorhynchus obscurus) and the southern right whale dolphin
(Lissodelphis peronii). Aquat Mamm 28: 211-217
© Boris Culik (2010) Odontocetes.
The toothed whales: "Lissodelphis peronii". UNEP/CMS
Secretariat, Bonn, Germany.http://www.cms.int/small-cetaceans
© Illustrations by Maurizio Würtz, Artescienza.
© Maps by IUCN.