Scientists have made a groundbreaking discovery concerning the dolphins frequently sighted in the rivers and inlets around Charleston. They’ve determined that these lowcountry dolphins are actually a distinct species – Tamanend’s bottlenose dolphin, with the scientific name Tursiops erebennus.
Researchers, including teams from NOAA and the University of Miami, embarked on an exhaustive eight-year study. They meticulously examined 147 skulls and 43 spines of stranded bottlenose dolphins. Many of these specimens were from the coastal waterways around Charleston.
What sets the Tamanend’s bottlenose dolphins apart are smaller heads and tailfins, compared to standard bottlenose dolphins, along with unique spines specifically designed to navigate the narrower confines of rivers and estuaries.
Given the discovery, the need to protect these animals becomes even more paramount. Lauren Rust, the executive director of the Lowcountry Marine Mammal Network, a Charleston-based nonprofit, emphasized the significance of this new species.
She mentioned the organization’s commitment to gathering data and samples from dolphins, whales, and seals that find their way to South Carolina’s shores. She said it is critical that the community understands how unique and small this population is, emphasizing their indispensable role in the marine ecosystem.
This new discovery not only offers a deeper appreciation of Charleston’s rich marine biodiversity but also underscores the imperative to ensure their continued survival.