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Wild dolphin crossbreeding in UK revealed by WDC

Shrinking dolphin populations in UK waters may be causing one species to mate with another according to WDC research.
 
WDC has recently released the first documented proof of hybridisation between wild dolphins in UK waters, where one species mates with a completely different species.


 
In a recently published scientific paper scientific paper , evidence is put forward by WDC that photographs taken during fieldwork off Lewis, Scotland between 2010 and 2014 show three ‘atypical’ dolphins with mixed physical characteristics, suggesting that bottlenose dolphins in the area and resident Risso’s dolphins have been mating.
 
The reasons behind this cross breeding remain unknown, but the occurrence of this type in one small geographical area is highly unusual. Bottlenose dolphins on the west coast of Scotland are few and far between. The “known” population is around 45 individuals off the west coast, another 10 or so off the Isle of Barra.
 
“One species mating with another may be down to a lack of suitable mates within their own individual species group”, says Nicola Hodgins, WDC head of science and author of the paper.  “But further research is needed to understand the implications of this unusual activity.
 
The findings also have major ramifications for the proposed marine protected area (MPA) in the area, says Hodgins. 
 
“All four of the atypical dolphins were sighted within the proposed boundaries of the MPA and therefore they would hopefully benefit from increased protection. Not only are we looking to protect what we already know is there but also what we don’t.”

About George Berry

George is a member of WDC's Communications team and website coordinator.