Peale's dolphin

Lagenorhynchus australis
Other names: 
  • Peale's porpoise
  • Southern dolphin
  • Blackchin dolphin
  • Peale's black-chinned dolphin
Maximum length: 
  • Male: 2.2m
  • Female: 2.1m
  • Calf: 1m
Maximum weight: 
  • Male: 115kg
  • Female: 115kg
  • Calf: Unknown
Diet: 
  • Fish
  • Squid and octopus
  • Shrimp
Estimated population: 
Unknown
IUCN Listing: 
DD
CITES Appendix: 
II
CMS Appendix: 
II
Classification: 

The Peale's dolphin is the largest of the three species of the genus Lagenorhynchus that inhabit the southern hemisphere's waters. 'Australis' refers to its southern distribution, while the common name was taken from Titian Peale who described the species in 1848. Peale's dolphins are endemic to southern South America. In recent years significant numbers have been taken by fishermen for use as bait and for food, and these removals are thought to have been unsustainable.

Appearance: 

The Peale's dolphin has a robust body with a short, slightly pointed beak and a large falcate dorsal fin. The head, back, pectoral fins and flukes are black or dark grey. The dorsal fin has a dark grey leading edge fading to a lighter grey on the trailing edge. There is a light grey thoracic patch running from the eye to under the dorsal fin, and a light grey brushstroke runs along the tailstock from the flukes, thinning as it reaches the middle of the body under the dorsal fin. There is a small, bright white patch behind each pectoral fin and the belly is white, fading to black towards the genital region. A thin but clearly defined line runs along the flank separating the white belly from the sides. Some confusion may occur with the dusky dolphin yet the Peale's dolphin can easily be identified by its robust body, tall, falcate dorsal fin, distinctive black face ‘mask' and short black beak.

Behaviour: 

Peale's dolphins are found in small groups of 2-20 individuals, but larger aggregations of up to 100 have been reported. They can be highly acrobatic, but are usually seen swimming inconspicuously. In the presence of vessels they may approach and bow-ride or surf on the wake. They have been seen accompanied by other cetaceans including Commerson's and Risso's dolphins. Peale's dolphins are often found swimming in or near kelp beds (mainly Macrocystis) near the coast, frequently feeding or searching for food. They feed on small squid, octopuses, fish and crustaceans. Calves are seen during austral spring and summer. It is found in shallow coastal open waters but also in the southern Chilean fjords.

Distribution: 

Peale's dolphin lives in coastal waters off the southern tip of South America, from about 33ºS in the Pacific to 38ºS in the Atlantic. It is also seen in Tierra del Fuego, Magellan Strait, Cape Horn and around the Falkland (Malvinas) Islands. Peale's dolphins used to be taken in large numbers for bait in southern king crab and false king crab fisheries in southern Chile and although numbers of animals taken are thought to be less than they were, they may still be unsustainable. In addition, significant numbers are incidentally caught in coastal gillnets. The increasing oil and gas activity and aquaculture developments, as well as coastal habitat degradation also poses a threat for this species. The worldwide population is unknown, and the IUCN classifies Peale's dolphin as Data Deficient.

Distribution map: