Mystery Cetacean Identification

From: pulipal@netscape.net
Date: Tue Sep 24 2002 - 16:22:02 EDT

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    Dagmar -

    We recently came across a pod of about 40 whales or very large dolphins off
    the western tip of Catalina.  We haven't been able to identify them and are
    hoping you can help.  I've attached the best photos we have.

    They were 10-15 feet in length with very large dorsal fins and a steeply
    sloped forehead.  We stayed with them for about 30 minutes and although we
    were very close, saw NO discernable beak/snout.  All were a mottled white orlight gray and appeared to be scarred, with many having significantly nicked dorsals.

    I work as an LA County Lifeguard and have worked NJ beaches as well.  I've
    observed MANY dolphins and am sure this species is one I have not come
    across.  Please help us solve our mystery!

    Thank you!

    Jim
    *******************************************
    Jim,

    Woo-hoo, a question I can answer rapidly and off the top of my head. You saw Risso's dolphins (Grampus griseus), also known sometimes as the grampus whale. They do actually have a tiny snout, but it's not something you would easily notice. Giving me the location of the sighting and a good thorough physical description was extremely helpful. It was actually the scratches and mottling that quickly told me it's the large dolphin species known as Risso's dolphin. And by the way, the Risso's dolphin is also known off the Atlantic Coast, including the upper northeast U.S.

    Mystery solved!

    Dagmar Fertl (alias: Dolphin Detective)

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