Maui's dolphin
Maui's dolphin is the world's smallest known species of dolphin
Dolphins are marine mammals that are closely related to whales and porpoises. There are almost forty species of dolphin in 17 genera. They vary in size from and , up to and . They are found worldwide, mostly in the shallower seas of the continental shelves, and are carnivores, mostly eating...

. They are a sub-species of the Hector's dolphin
Hector's Dolphin
Hector's dolphin is the best-known of the four dolphins in the genus Cephalorhynchus and is found only in New Zealand. At about 1.4 m in length, it is one of the smallest cetaceans....


They are only found throughout the West Coast of New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

's North Island
North Island
The North Island is one of the two main islands of New Zealand, separated from the much less populous South Island by Cook Strait. The island is in area, making it the world's 14th-largest island...

, and are among that country's rarest species. As of 2008, fewer than 110 of these remain in the world because of the amount of fishing nets in their area. Maui's dolphins are generally found close to shore in groups or pods of several dolphin. They are often seen in water less than 20 metres deep, but may also range further off shore. Females grow to 1.7 metres long and weigh up to 50 kg. Males are slightly smaller and lighter. The dolphins are known to live up to 20 years. Most of their time is spent feeding. They have also been observed playing (e.g. with seaweed
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae...

), chasing other dolphins, blowing bubbles, and play fighting.

Physical description

Having distinctive grey, white and black markings and a short snout, they are most easily recognized by their round dorsal fin. Maui's dolphins are generally found close to shore
A shore or shoreline is the fringe of land at the edge of a large body of water, such as an ocean, sea, or lake. In Physical Oceanography a shore is the wider fringe that is geologically modified by the action of the body of water past and present, while the beach is at the edge of the shore,...

 in groups or pods of several dolphins. They have a solidly built body with a gently sloping snout and a unique rounded dorsal fin. (Maui’s and Hector's are the only dolphins with a well-rounded black dorsal fin.)

Population and distribution

Fishing has had an adverse effect on the Maui’s dolphin population in the past. Some commercial set net fishers have acknowledged that they have occasionally caught Maui’s dolphin by accident in the past. People have often seen Maui's dolphin at river mouths. Not very many have ever been spotted in different parts of New Zealand.

They are classed by the Department of Conservation in the New Zealand Threat Classification System
New Zealand Threat Classification System
The New Zealand Threat Classification System is used by the Department of Conservation to assess conservation priorities of species in New Zealand....

as "Nationally Critical".

External links

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