• Ragini Mahajan

The panda dolphin

The Commerson’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) aka skunk dolphin aka panda dolphin is best known for its distinctive, black and white body that consists of black fins, flippers and head, with white covering all other regions. These dolphins are small in size and found largely across the southwest Atlantic Ocean, with some populations also seen in the Indian Ocean. Other than their vastly different geographic habitats, Commerson’s dolphins found in the Indian Ocean also differ physically from their Atlantic counterparts. The dolphins seen in the Indian Ocean tend to have more grey patterns along their body and are also usually larger in size. [1]

Given their small size, these dolphins are extremely agile and register swimming speeds as fast as 11 to 13 kmph, often seeing riding waves surrounding high-speed boats. They are friendly to other relatives and like to associate with the Peale’s dolphin (Lagenorhynchus australis) when performing spectacular acrobats and playful swimming routines!

Photograph by GP0STRFPH, Greenpeace UK [CC BY 2.0], via flickr.com

Typically, Commerson’s dolphins exist in groups of 2-3 individuals but are also known to travel and socialize in groups as big as 100 individuals. Although their life spans in the wild average at around 10 years of age, one captive individual at SeaWorld (San Diego) lived for a record-breaking 25.8 years! Previously, these dolphins were often intentionally captured by fishermen for use as bait, but the practice has since been outlawed, allowing populations level to rise again. Yet, accidental entanglement in fishing nets continues to be a threat to these dolphins. [2]

Today we release a chromosome-length assembly for the Commerson’s dolphin species, our seventh assembly in the Delphinidae (oceanic dolphins) family (see our assemblies page here). This is a de novo assembly with contig N50 = 92Kb and scaffold N50 = 104Mb. See Dudchenko et. al, 2018 for details on the protocol. We thank SeaWorld for their help with the sample!

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