One of the most unusual dolphin species in the world, Hector’s dolphins have evolved several adaptations that allow them to survive in the oceans surrounding New Zealand. These adaptations include a relatively small body size, contrasting markings and a unique hunting strategy. Additionally, Hector’s dolphins share some adaptations with all dolphins, such as their blowholes, which allow them to breathe while they are underwater.
Hector’s dolphins are the smallest marine dolphins in the world. This small size is likely an adaptation that enables them to succeed in their preferred habitat: shallow, near-shore waters. Hector’s dolphins have evolved feeding behaviors that suit their morphology, habitat and lifestyle. When feeding, Hector’s dolphins make a series of short dives to catch food. While scientists do not know exactly why, Hector’s dolphins do not produce the whistling sounds that are common among other dolphins. Instead, they only emit short, high-frequency clicks to echolocate their prey and communicate.
Hector’s dolphins are listed as “critically endangered” by the IUCN Redlist of Threatened Species. Some scientists estimate that there are 7,000 individuals left in the world. Because Hector’s dolphins have a slow reproductive rate, and females produce a single calf every two to four years, their future is uncertain.