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Marine Ecology Research Centre

Whale and Dolphin General Information

  • There are 86 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises (cetaceans) found throughout the world's oceans. Of these, around 46 species are known to inhabit Australian waters.
  • Following the decline of the dinosaurs more than 50 million years ago, the evolutionary process of whales and dolphins began. Around 10 million years ago, most of the whales and dolphins that we know today were present.
  • Whales, dolphins and porpoises belong to the Order Cetacea.
  • There are two main types of cetacean: Odonotocetes (toothed whales) and Mysticetes (baleen whales).
  • Mysticete whales include humpback, blue, fin, sei, right, grey, minke, Bryde's and bowhead whales. These whales have two blowholes and baleen plates on the upper jaw. The baleen plates are used to filter plankton and small fish during feeding.
  • The blue whale, weighing up to 190 tonnes and growing to 33.6m in length, is the largest animal ever to have lived on the earth.
  • Sperm whales, killer whales, belugas, narwhals, beaked whales, dolphins, pilot whales and porpoises belong to the Odontocete whale group. These whales have a single blowhole, teeth and use echolocation to find their prey of fish and squid amongst others.

Species of whales and dolphins sighted around Byron Bay and the Northern Rivers region

  • Inshore Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops aduncus)
  • Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
  • Common Dolphins (Delphinus delphis)
  • Killer Whales/Orca (Orcinus orca)
  • Melon Headed Whale (Peponocephala electra)
  • Pantropical Spotted Dolphin (Stenella attenuata)
  • Humpback Whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)
  • Bryde's Whale (Balaenoptera edeni)
  • Minke Whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata)
  • Southern Right Whale (Eubalaena australis)

What can you do to protect the marine environment?

  • Each of us can make a difference to help ensure the survival of marine mammals and other animals for future generations.
  • Pick up any rubbish on the beaches or near drains and dispose of properly.
  • Buy 'dolphin safe' tuna products.
  • Do not pour hazardous waste down the drain.
  • Reduce-reuse-recycle your garbage.
  • Be a responsible boater and abide by whale and dolphin-watching boating regulations.
  • When fishing, take any discarded line, bait packaging etc. with you when you leave and abide by marine parks fishing rules.
  • Set a good example for others in your use and enjoyment of the marine environment.
  • Support research and conservation by donating or volunteering with non-government and research organisations.