Fun Australian Snubfin Dolphin Facts For Kids

Moumita Dutta
Oct 20, 2022 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Aug 06, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Australian Snubfin Dolphin Fact File

Australian snubfin dolphins (Orcaella heinsohni) are close relatives of Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris).

Until 2005, both were considered a similar species, however in 2005, two scientists, named Isabel Beasley and Peter Arnold, collected samples of both dolphins and came to the realization that Australian snubfin dolphins are a new species separate from the Irrawaddy dolphin, both being a close relative to the genus of the killer whale.

Unlike other species of dolphin, the Australian snubfin is beakless with a small dorsal fin, a distinct crease on its neck, and its blowhole is located slightly to the left. Their tri-color feature and skull measurement differentiate between the two species. These dolphins are larger in length when compared to the Irrawaddy dolphin.

Though Australian snubfin dolphins are a new species, their distribution is limited to the coastal waters of Papua New Guinea to Queensland, Australia and are found in small isolated groups.

If you liked these true facts about the Australian snubfin dolphin, then you'll surely like these facts about the Ganges River dolphin and the Indus River dolphin too.

Australian Snubfin Dolphin Interesting Facts

What type of animal is an Australian snubfin dolphin?

Australian snubfin dolphins (Orcaella heinsohni) belong to the family of Delphinidae which contains 30 different species of different dolphins, containing species with common names as whales instead of dolphins. Their feeding habits makes them opportunistic feeders and they can survive on any available nutrient source.

A sighting has been observed where Australian snubfin dolphins mate with Australian humpback dolphins, producing a hybrid.

What class of animal does an Australian snubfin dolphin belong to?

The Australian snubfin dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni) belongs to the mammal class of animals. The presence of mammary glands to feed their young ones, with three ear bones, fur or hair, and the neocortex (region of the brain) are what qualifies snubfin dolphins as mammals.

How many  Australian snubfin dolphins are there in the world?

The Australian snubfin dolphin population around the world is less than 10,000 individuals with all of them spread across the regions of Australian waters.

Where does an Australian snubfin dolphin live?

Australian snubfin dolphins (Orcaella heinsohni) prefer a habitat with shallow coastal waters 14-15.5 mi (23-25 km) away from the nearest coast. Sometimes, this species is found near creek mouths and rivers. They swim around shallow waters with over dredged channels, seagrass, and coral reefs.

What is an Australian snubfin dolphin's habitat?

The Australian snubfin dolphin (Orcaella heinsohni) is native to Australia, and these dolphins live in the range from Brisbane in  Townsville, Queensland to Broome in Western Australia. This dolphin species is also found in northern Manokwari, Indonesia to Australia's Brisbane River and the coast of Papua New Guinea.

Their feeding mainly occurs in shallow waters close to river creeks as a vast distribution helps them thrive in these coastal waters.

Who do Australian snubfin dolphins live with?

Australian snubfin dolphins are social animals. This dolphin species is found in small groups of two to six individuals and the distribution of these groups is equal in most cases.  

How long does an Australian snubfin dolphin live?

The Australian snubfin dolphin lifespan is more than 20 years, but generally, they do not survive past 22-28 years of age.

How do they reproduce?

Australian snubfin dolphins are monogamous and spend their life with a single mate. Their breeding season starts from December to April.

These dolphins reach sexual maturity at the age of six years old and their gestation period is 14 months, resulting in the birth of a single calf weighing 22-26 lb (10-12 kg). Calves will follow their mothers until they reach adult size and during this period, the mother will provide food and protection to the calves.

What is their conservation status?

The Australian snubfin dolphin conservation status is listed as a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List, due to the drastic decline in their population caused by habitat degradation. Other threats include accidentally getting caught in shark nets.

Several marine parks have been established in northern Australia to protect and help this species to grow back to their original population.

Australian Snubfin Dolphin Fun Facts

What do Australian snubfin dolphins look like?

Australian snubfin dolphins (Orcaella heinsohni) have acuminated body shapes with dorsal fins that are small, and agile heads. This species portray sexual dimorphism as a male is typically larger when compared to a female.

Australian snubfin dolphins have a gray-blue shade of color and a white abdomen from their flippers to the groin area. This three different color combination makes it easier to differentiate this dolphin with their closest relatives, the Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris).

Australian snubfin dolphins have a crescent shape dorsal fin, with an anterior margin that is curved.

*Please note that this is an image of a bottlenose dolphin, not an Australian snubfin dolphin. If you have an image of an Australian snubfin dolphin, please let us know at

Facts and information about snubfin dolphins conservation are amusing.

How cute are they?

Australian snubfin dolphins are passive animals. These dolphins have been seen playing and jumping around in the shallow waters along the Australian coast. Though they look strange when compared to other species of dolphins, this species is very cute to look at.

How do they communicate?

Australian snubfin dolphins communicate with each other vocally by producing whistles, clicks, and squeak sounds. While foraging, this species uses clicks to communicate and mostly uses whistles during socializing.

How big is an Australian snubfin dolphin?

Australian snubfin dolphins are considered the largest species of dolphins found in the Australian region. An adult can grow up to 82.6-90.5 in (210-230 cm). The Australian snubfin dolphin length is similar to an average human being.

How fast can an Australian snubfin dolphin swim?

Australian snubfin dolphins are an agile species. These dolphins can reach up 20-25 mph (32-40 kph) while foraging fish and evading their natural predators.

How much does an Australian snubfin dolphin weigh?

Australian snubfin dolphins are large-size marine mammals, and males are slightly larger than females. A fully grown adult Australian snubfin dolphin's weight can be from 251-293 lb (114-133 kg).

What are the male and female names of the species?

Like all other species of dolphins, a male dolphin is called a bull, and a female is called a cow.

What would you call a baby Australian snubfin dolphin?

Baby Australian snubfin dolphins are called calves. At birth, calves weigh around 22-26 lb (10-12 kg).

They are born swimmers and influenced by their mothers until the age of two years old. They stay in the same group until they are six years old and leave their groups after obtaining adult size. Juvenile calves are born with a dark color which becomes lighter once they start maturing.

What do they eat?

Australian snubfin dolphins prey on invertebrates and fish found in the coastal habitat. Their primary diet consists of breams, eels, anchovies, halibut, sardines, squid, grunters, cuttlefish, and various other cephalopods.

Are they poisonous?

No, this species is not poisonous.

Would they make a good pet?

No, you cannot keep these dolphins as pets as they are large creatures that require a vast habitat. They are listed as a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List making them illegal to keep as a pet as there are strict conservation efforts to save them.

Did you know...

After 56 years, Australian snubfin dolphins were discovered as the first new dolphin species found near the coastal waters habitat of northern Australia by two scientists, Isabel Beasley and Peter Arnold.

The Great Barrier Marine Park Authority has considered the Australian snubfin and the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin to be a high priority. This is because PAH levels are higher when compared to industrialized countries, contaminating the marine flora and fauna.

Dolphins such as Australian humpback dolphins and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins can be found in Australia.

These dolphins may face threats from over-fishing, causing them to face issues with diminishing food supplies due to human competition. Lower food resources would require these dolphins to decisively deal with competition for food resources or migrate away.

Shark nets laid near the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park is one of the threats for the decline in their population, as these dolphins get tangled in these nets and lose their life.

Dolphins cannot survive underwater for a long period as they are marine mammals. They must frequently come to the surface to get fresh air before another dive.

Dolphins are the only mammals that give birth to their calves' tails first instead of their head. A dolphin’s skin is extremely frail and can easily damage its dorsal fin when making contact with reefs and rocks in the coastal waters.

What is unique about the Australian snubfin dolphin?

Australian snubfin dolphins have a small and triangular dorsal fin located on the far back of their bodies which is why they got their name, snubfin. This species has smaller tails which help in identifying them individually.

Their tails are visible when they are about to dive and when they stick their tails out of the waters. This species of dolphins do not have beaks like other dolphin species.

Is the Australian snubfin dolphin endangered?

No, this dolphin species is not yet Endangered. They are listed as a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.

With only less than 10,000 individuals found in their natural habitat from the coast of Papua New Guinea to Queensland, Australia, these dolphins have seen a drastic decline in their population.

The major reason for the decline in their population is accidentally getting caught in the shark nets which helps to minimize the threat of shark attacks in the Shark Control Program in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals from our bottlenose dolphins facts and vaquita facts pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable Australian snubfin dolphin coloring pages.

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

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Pradhanya RaoBachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

With a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Christ University, Bangalore, Pradhanya's passion for the English language and literature led her to explore the field of content writing, where she has gained extensive experience in writing, reviewing, editing, and fact-checking. She has also earned certifications in Google Ads Search, Google Ads Display, and Social Media Marketing, showcasing her proficiency in digital marketing.

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