Sousa chinensis   (Osbeck,  1765) (Dolphin)
Organism information awaits expert curation
Class: Mammalia

Image copyrights: OBIS-SEAMAP

Size: Male: 3.2 m; Female: 2.5 m.

Weight: 285 kg.

Color: The color of the species is highly variable, but specimens off India are reported to be ‘solid lead grey’. Longitudinal blotches are found on the ventral side in larger specimens, and the lower jaw may be cream colored.

This is a large animal with a stout body. It has a long, slender beak and a slight melon on the forehead. It has rounded flippers. The small but prominent dorsal fin is placed on a hump in the middle of the back. This platform for the fin is distinctive, but is not found on all the animals outside Indian region. There are marked keels above and below the tail stock. There is a distinct notch between the tail flukes, which are moderately concave along the rear edge. There may be 29 to 38 pairs of teeth in each jaw.

Humped backed dolphins surface to breath in a very distinctive way. The beak emerges from the water first, and then the melon and hump. As it breathes, the animal cruises with the beak just on the water surface. Sometimes, the head is lifted clear of the water and the hump and fin are clearly visible. Finally, the dolphin rolls with its head going down and the hump emerging more, before sliding out of view. They can heave themselves over mud banks to get from one channel of water to another.

Calving occurs throughout the year with peaks in summer.

Similar species: They are likely to be confused with Bottlenose dolphin. However, differences in dorsal fin shape and body colors distinguish the two.

Synonym (s)
Sotalia lentiginosa (Gray, 1866)
Delphinus (Steno) lentiginosus Owen 1866
Delphinus chinensis Osbeck, 1765
Delphinus plumbeus G. Cuvier, 1829
Delphinus sinensis Desmarest 1822
Sotalia borneensis Lydekker, 1901
Sotalia chinensis True, 1889
Sotalia fergusoni Lydekker, 1903
Sotalia lentiginosa (Gray, 1866)
Sotalia lentiginosus Flower, 1884
Sotalia plumbea (G. Cuvier, 1829)
Sotalia plumbeus Flower, 1883
Sotalia sinensis Flower, 1883
Sousa borneensis Fraser & Purves, 1960
Sousa huangi Wang, 1999
Sousa lentiginosa Iredale & Troughton, 1934
Sousa plumbea (G. Cuvier, 1829)
Sousa queenslandensis Gaskin, 1972
Steno chinensis Gray, 1871
Steno lentiginosus Blanford, 1891
Steno plumbeus Blanford, 1891
Stenopontistes zambezicus Miranda Ribiero, 1936

Common Name (s)
• Plumbeous Dolphin (English)
• Lead Colored Dolphin (English)
• Indo-Pacific Hump-backed Dolphin (English)
• Poonan aedi (Malayalam)
• Ongil (Tamil)
• Bolla gadini (Telugu)
• Bornean Dolphin (English)
• Borneo White Dolphin (English)
• Chinese White Dolphin (English)
• Thimingalam
• Plumbeous Dolphin (English)
• Ridge Backed dolphin (English)
• Speckled Dolphin (English)
• White Dolphin (English)
• Sishumara (Oriya)
• Freckled Dolphin (English)
• Indo-Pacific Hump-Back Dolphin (English)
• Indo-pacific Humpback Dolphin
Economic Importance and Threats
Threats:  Natural threats, Anthropogenic
(Destruction of mangrove habitat predisposes them to risk.
Frequently caught in fisherman's nets.)

Habitat:  Estuarine, Coastal
Prey:  Fish, molluscs and crustaceans.
IUCN Status:  NearThreatened


• Andhra Pradesh, Vishakhapatnam INDIA
• INDIA (Record: 1800-2000)
• Maharashtra, Alibag INDIA
• Andhra Pradesh, Waltair INDIA
• Andhra Pradesh, Off Vishakhapatnam INDIA (Record: 18/09/1854)
• West Coast, Off Malabar INDIA
• West Coast, Malabar INDIA
• Kerala, Trivandrum Beach INDIA (Record: 31/03/1901)
• Kerala, Travancore INDIA (Record: 08/1908)
• Daman and Diu, Devka (Lat: 20.41) (Long: 72.88) INDIA (Record: 16/12/1976)
• Kerala, Kozhikode Coast INDIA
• Orissa, Gahirmatha Beach INDIA (Record: 01/1983-03/1983, 01/1984-03/1984, 01/1985-03/1985, 01/1987-03/1987)
• Kerala, Off Kozhikode INDIA (Record: 02/09/1978, 12/02/1981)
• Kerala, Kozhikode Harbour INDIA (Record: 22/12/1980)
• Kerala, Kozhikode INDIA (Record: 15/09/1981)
• Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andaman Islands INDIA (Record: 04/1982)
• Kerala, Kochi INDIA (Record: 07/1983 - 12/1986)
• Tamil Nadu, Mandapam INDIA (Record: 05/02/1985)
• Tamil Nadu, Mandapam Camp INDIA (Record: 18/06/1990, 15/09/1994)
• Tamil Nadu, Tuticorin INDIA (Record: 24/01/1991)
• Tamil Nadu, Porto Novo INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Tuticorin Major Harbour INDIA (Record: 11/07/1993)
• Tamil Nadu, Off Tuticorin INDIA (Record: 16/02/1994)
• Tamil Nadu, Seeniappa Dharga INDIA (Record: 15/09/1995)
• Karnataka, Mangalore INDIA (Record: 24/12/2005)
• Bay of Bengal INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Chennai INDIA
• Tamil Nadu, Gulf of Mannar INDIA
• Orissa, Bhitarkanika INDIA
• Karnataka, Mangalore Harbour (Lat: 12.85) (Long: 74.81) INDIA (Record: 11/2005, 12/2005)
• Tamil Nadu, Chennai Harbour (Lat: 13.08) (Long: 79.76) INDIA (Record: 10/2004)
• Karnataka, Gangoli INDIA (Record: 24/11/2005)
• East Coast INDIA
• Gujarat, Gulf of Kachchh (Lat: 22.6) (Long: 69.5) INDIA

Literature Source(s)
  • Sathasivam K (2004) Marine mammals of India Universities Press(India) private limited, Hyderabad, India 180 pp Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Society for the Management of European Biodiversity Data (2009) World Register of Marine Species (WoRMS) Available at -
  • (2003) IUCN Red list of threatened species Available at -
  • Borkar, M (2005) Marine mammals, turtles and crocodiles: A field manual NIO, Goa 63 pp Available at - NIO
  • Karuppiah, S; Subramanian, A and Obbard, JP (2005) Organochlorine residues in odontocete species from the southeast coast of India Chemosphere Elsevier 66(7) 891-897 Available at -
  • Marine Biological Station, Chennai, Tamil Nadu (2003) Checklist of marine fauna of Tamil Nadu Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Available at -
  • Dr. Ramesh, R; Dr. Nammalwar, P and Dr. Gowri, VS (2008) Database on coastal information of Tamil Nadu Report Submitted to Environmental Information System (ENVIS) Centre, Department of Environment, Government of Tamil Nadu Institute for Ocean Management, Anna University, Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Available at -
  • Chadha, S and Sekar, KC (1999) Bhitarkanika:myth and reality Nataraj publishers, Dehra Dun Available at - NIO, Goa
  • Krishnana, AA; Yousufa, KS; Kumarana, PL; Harisha, N; Anoopa, B; Afsala, VV; Rajagopalana, M; Vivekanandana, E; Krishnakumar, PK and Jayasankara, P (2007) Stomach contents of cetaceans incidentally caught along Mangalore and Chennai coasts of India Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science Elsevier B.V. 76(4) 909-913 Available at -
  • Kumaran, PL (2002) Marine mammal research in India: A review and critique of the methods Current Science Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore 83(10) 1210-1220 Available at -
  • Dr. Kumaraguru, AK (2000) Studies on socioeconomics of Coral Reef resource users in the Gulf of Mannar coast, South India Centre for Marine and Coastal studies School of Energy, Environment and Natural Resources Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, India Available at -
  • Yousuf, KSSM; Anoop, AK; Anoop, B; Afsal, VV; Vivekanandan, E; Kumarran, RP; Rajagopalan, M; Krishnakumar, PK and Jayasankar, P (2009) Observations on incidental catch of cetaceans in three landing centres along the Indian coast Marine Biodiversity Records Cambridge University Press 4 1-5 Available at -
  • Jayasankar, P; Anoop, B; Rajgopalan, M; Yousuf, KMM; Reynold, P; Krishnakumar, PK; Afsal, VV and Krishnan, AA (2009) Indian Efforts on the Inventorization of Marine Mammal Species for their Conservation and Management Asian Fisheries Science Asian Fisheries Society, Manila, Philippines 22 143-155 Available at -
  • Pillai, PKM and Augustine, SK (2000) A code list of common marine living resources of the Indian seas CMFRI Special Publication No.12 CMFRI 1-115 Available at -
  • Padmanaban P and Dinesh K.P (2011) A checklist of Marine Mammals of India Marine Biology Reginal centre, Zoological Survey of India 4pp Available at -
  • Singh H.S (2003) Sea mammals in marine protected area in the Gulf of Kachchh, Gujarat State, India Indian Journal of Marine Science 258-262pp Available at -
  • Jefferson, TA; Leatherwood, S and Webber, MA (2006) Marine mammals of the world World biodiversity database Available at -

Page last updated on:2012-11-07

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