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MARINE MAMMAL SCIENCE, 23(2): 464–467 (April 2007)

C 2007 by the Society for Marine Mammalogy

No claim to original US government works

DOI: 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00117.x
Southwest Fisheries Science Center,
8604 La Jolla Shores Drive,
La Jolla, California 92037, U.S.A.

Badjao Inn,
Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Philippines

Tropical Marine Research for Conservation,
6363 Lakewood Street,
San Diego, California 92122, U.S.A.

Conservation International–Philippines,
6 Maalahanin Street, Teachers Village,
Quezon City, Philippines 1101

The subspecies Stenella longirostris roseiventris (Perrin et al. 1999), or “dwarf spin-
ner dolphin,” is based on Delphinus roseiventris (Wagner 1846). Wagner described
the nominal species from specimens collected by Jacquinot (1842–1853, 1844) in
the Arafura Sea and called by him “dauphin à ventre rose” (pink-bellied dolphin). It
differs from the more pelagic S. l. longirostris in the region in its habitat (shallow
reef waters) and diet (benthic and reef organisms) and in average smaller body size
(about 145 cm), proportionately larger appendages, smaller skull, lower number of
teeth, and lower number of vertebrae (statistical details of the morphological differ-
ences given in Perrin et al. 1999). Genetically, it differs in frequencies of mtDNA
control-region haplotypes and microsatellite alleles (Galver 2002). The genetic anal-
yses were based on 402-bp sequences from control region I of the mtDNA d-loop
and 12 dinucleotide microsatellites (under a stepwise mutation model). In analy-
sis of molecular variances (AMOVAs) (Excoffier et al. 1992) of both mitochondrial
haplotypes (103) and microsatellite alleles for 168 samples from the eastern tropical
Pacific (four stocks, including two subspecies), Hawaii, Taiwan, the Philippines, the
Indian Ocean, the North Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico, the dwarf spinner (n =
13, from the Timor Sea off northern Australia) showed significant genetic divergence
from each of the other ten strata at  = 0.05. The most common of four mtDNA
haplotypes in the dwarf spinner series was shared with two specimens from the Mal-
dive Islands; no haplotypes were shared with the sample of sixteen pelagic spinners
from the Philippines. In a dendrogram generated by a neighbor-joining analysis of


the microsatellite data using shared allele distance as a measure of genetic distance,
the dwarf spinners were the only geographical stratum occupying a separate clade.
The external appearance of the dwarf spinner in life has not been previously clearly
illustrated. The photograph here (Fig. 1A) was taken by MTA off Bugsuk Island to

Figure 1. (A) Dwarf spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris roseiventris) in the Philippines near
northern Borneo. (B) Gray’s spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris longirostris) from the central

the south of Palawan in the Philippines (8◦ 11.053 N, 117◦ 22.476 E), near Borneo
and at the periphery of the previously known range of the subspecies (map given
in Perrin et al. 1999), on 13 April 2006 during a line-transect abundance survey of
cetaceans in the region. The dolphin was in a group of 15–25 sighted adjacent to a
broad shallow (1–5 m) fringing reef area over a depth of 30–50 m and identified by
its markedly small size and proportionately large dorsal fin and flippers. All the larger
animals in the group were of a size similar to that of the animal in the photograph.
Average adult length in the dwarf subspecies is 145 cm, vs. 188 cm in the pelagic
subspecies in the region (Perrin et al. 1999). The difference of about 43 cm (about 17
in., roughly 14 – 13 of total length) is considerable and quite noticeable at close range.
The animal also had noticeably large dorsal fin and flippers. A difference typical of
the two forms can be seen by comparing the photographs included here (Fig. 1A,
B). Although this comparison is based on only two photographs, the differences
are consonant with those documented in the subspecies description (Perrin et al.
1999). Measurements of total body length are not available for the photos, but the
appendages can be compared with the distance from beak tip to dorsal fin tip. In this
comparison, the dwarf animal has dorsal fin height 21% and flipper length 28% of
the dorsal-fin/beak-tip length, whereas the pelagic dolphin has dorsal fin height of
18% and flipper length of 23%.
The pink ventral coloration accords with the original description. Pink coloration
has been described or figured in other cetaceans, for example Sousa chinensis and
Lagenodelphis hosei (Reeves et al. 2002). It is likely a physiological response to high
heat load, dilation of subcutaneous blood vessels to “dump” heat (Perrin 2002), and
not a diagnostic characteristic of the subspecies. Although larger pelagic spinner
dolphins (S. l. longirostris) seen on the other side of the island in deeper waters (100–
275 m) two days earlier did not exhibit pink undersides, the pelagic spinner is a
deep diver, feeding on organisms in the Deep Scattering Layer down to 400 m (Dolar
et al. 2003) and perhaps has greater opportunities for disposing of excess heat than
available to the shallower-living dwarf spinner. The undersides of two other dolphins
in the group were visible in another photo; both were pink.
These records indicate that the two subspecies are at least partially sympatric
on a geographic scale, but the pelagic subspecies occurs in deeper water and the
dwarf subspecies in shallow water over and adjacent to reefs, comprising distinct and
microallopatric ecotypes. In some areas, such as the shallow Gulf of Thailand (less
than 50-m deep), only the dwarf subspecies may occur. Further genetic studies will
be required to determine the degree of gene flow between the two forms.

Conservation International–Philippines funded the survey. We also thank the survey ob-
servers (Jom Daclan, Alden Tagarino, Edna Sabater, Nadia Abesamis, and Ruston Noe), the
boat captain Apollo Noe and his crew, and the Philippine Navy guards Joey Ambayec and
Mark Anthony Amita. Balabac Mayor Romel Solani and Romy Trono, Sheila Vergara, and
Art Faburada of CI–Philippines made the survey possible. The photograph of the pelagic
spinner was provided by the Protected Resources Division of the Southwest Fisheries Science

DOLAR, M. L. L., W. A. WALKER, G. L. KOOYMAN AND W. F. PERRIN. 2003. Comparative
feeding ecology of spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) and Fraser’s dolphins (Lagenodel-
phis hosei) in the Sulu Sea. Marine Mammal Science 19:1–19.
EXCOFFIER, L., P. E. SMOUSE AND J. M. QUATTRO. 1992. Analysis of molecular variance
inferred from metric distances among DNA haplotypes: applications to human mito-
chondrial DNA restriction data. Genetics 131:479–491.
GALVER, L. M. 2002. The molecular ecology of spinner dolphins, Stenella longirostris: genetic
diversity and population structure. Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, San
Diego, CA. 192 pp.
JACQUINOT, C. H. 1842–1853. Voyage au pôle sud et dans l’Océanie sur les corvettes
l’Astrolabe et la Zélée . . . . . . Zoologie (planches). (Plates only). Gide and J. Baudry,
JACQUINOT, H. 1844. Voyage au pôle sud et dans l’Océanie sur les corvettes l’Astrolabe et la
Zélée . . . .Histoire du voyage. Volume 6. Gide, Paris.
PERRIN, W. F. 2002. Coloration. Pages 236–245 in W. F. Perrin, B. Würsig and J. G. M.
Thewissen, eds. Encyclopedia of marine mammals. Academic Press, San Diego, CA.
PERRIN, W. F., M. L. L. DOLAR AND D. ROBINEAU. 1999. Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris)
of the western Pacific and Southeast Asia: pelagic and shallow-water forms. Marine
Mammal Science 15:1029–1053.
(ILLUSTRATOR). 2002. Guide to marine mammals of the world. Alfred A. Knopf, New
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Received: 24 August 2006
Accepted: 25 October 2006

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