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Text and photos by Nick Baker, unless credited to others.
Copyright ゥ Ecology Asia 2024







Indo-Pacific Humpback Dolphin

Infraorder : Cetacea
Family : Delphinidae
Species :
Sousa chinensis

Total Length :
Typically up to 2.8 metres, but sometimes larger.
Weight : up to 230 kg

Sousa chinensis occurs in warmer, sheltered waters of the eastern Indian and western Pacific oceans, as well as coastal waters in the South China Sea. Small groups may also venture into mangrove and estuarine habitats.

Indo-Pacific Humpback dolphins have a streamlined head and body, and a long, slender beak. Their colour may vary from whitish or pale grey to medium grey (sometimes speckled) to pink (particularly in older dolphins). There is typically, but not always, a low hump on the back, immediately beneath the small, triangular dorsal fin.

Their food prey comprises mainly fish, which can be caught through deep dives or by rapid chases in shallow waters. Group size is typically less than 10. 

Jefferson & Smith (2015) list the range countries as follows: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Borneo), Malaysia, China, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam (records from other countries are considered as unconfirmed or extralimital).

In some locations, numbers of this species are in decline due to coastal pollution, including the ingestion of plastic waste.

Fig 1 : Example from shallow, coastal waters off the north of the island of Pulau Pinang, Peninsular Malaysia. This is an adult, with a markedly pink belly. Photo thanks to Graeme Guy

Figs 2 to 4 : Recently deceased example which washed ashore on the east coast of Johor, Peninsular Malaysia at Air Papan beach, which faces the South China Sea, on 03 June 2014. This dolphin was identified as Sousa chinensis based on its size, estimated as 2.0 metres, the triangular shape of its dorsal fin and its relatively long, slender beak.

References : M5

Jefferson, T. A. & Smith, B. D. (2015). Re-assessment of the conservation status of the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis) using the IUCN Red List Criteria. Advances in Marine Biology : Humpback Dolphins (Sousa spp.) : Current Status and Conservation, Part 2. 73: 1-21


Fig 1
ゥ  Graeme Guy

Fig 2

Fig 3

Fig 4