Cetaceans and Marine Carnivores

This photo album contains several galleries; the first display images from the dolphin and whale families, placed in order Cetaceans. The second gallery features marine Carnivores such as fur seals and sea lions while a third gallery groups together a small selection of land and semiaquatic Carnivores. See Taxonomy note at the end of this page.

Dolphins and Whales

Dolphin and Whale Notes

Except for the Burrunan dolphin which is not IUCN listed and the sperm whale which is ‘Red List 2020-2’ assessed as ‘Vulnerable’ other species are ‘Least Concern’.

Bottlenose dolphins are cosmopolitan coastal species found in temperate and tropical waters around the world. The images are from a small pod that was bow-riding our boat in the Galápagos Islands.

Burrunan dolphin, an aboriginal name, is a relatively is a new but controversial species of bottlenose dolphin found in 2011. There may be about 100 in Port Phillip Bay in Melbourne and another fifty in the coastal lakes of Gippsland where I captured photos of them. It’s a small dolphin not assessed for the IUCN Red List but locally assessed as endangered. One individual washed up dead on the shore within the Gippsland lake system, and a pod was swimming along with fur seals in the surf at Lakes Entrance.

Dusky dolphins are small dolphins that inhabit the cold coastal waters of the Southern Hemisphere. There are three subspecies, including the unnamed one New Zealand waters. I photographed these agile and acrobatic dolphins on a couple Kaikoura pelagic boat trips in New Zealand’s South Island. They make great photographic subjects.

Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) large pod at Kaikoura Pelagic in New Zealand
Dusky Dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obscurus) large pod at Kaikoura Pelagic in New Zealand

Sperm whales inhabit all the oceans and non-landlocked seas. I photographed these splendid mammals on a boat trip off the coast of Kaikoura in New Zealand’s South Island. These toothed whales stay at Kaikoura year-round feeding on giant squid, which they hunt in the 3 Km deep Kaikoura Canyon that runs close to the coastline. They are amongst the largest whales and can live for over 60 years. At Kaikoura, they can dive to over 1000 metres and stay submerged for up to two hours.

Southern right whales inhabit the Southern Hemisphere with breeding population concentrated near coastlines in the winter and the deep oceans in summer months as far down as Antarctica. These baleen whales skim feed on krill and small crustaceans both on the surface and subsurface.

The leading Australian calving grounds are Warrnambool (Victoria), Victor Harbour (South Australia) and Bunda Cliffs at the Head of the Bight, near Ceduna. They probably chose these three places to calve because the beaches have high-energy breaking waves creating a high ambient noise environment. A possible defence against acoustically sensitive predators, such as the killer whale; they also have access to nearby deep water.

I captured images of these fantastic mammals near the end of their breeding season at Logan’s Beach in Warrnambool on the South West coast Victoria in Australia. Images show blowing, a cow with her calf swimming parallel to the beach and a cow spy-hopping. These whales are a similar in size to sperm whales.

Common minke whale breaking the surface off the north coast of Fernandina Island in Galápagos. Minkes are baleen whales that filter feed on krill and schools of small fish. They have a worldwide distribution, being most abundant in cooler regions.

The whales in the two images are of different individuals. The two photos so different dorsal fin notches; one has front notches while the other has a rear notch. I photographed them at the same time and location. I thought I was photographing one individual, but it must have been two with only one on the surface at a time.

Fur Seals and Sea Lions

Fur Seal and Sea Lion Notes

Both featured sea lions together with the Galápagos fur seal are ‘Red List 2020-2’ assessed as ‘Endangered’; All other species are ‘Least Concern’.

New Zealand [Hooker’s] sea lions are endangered and endemic to New Zealand’s South Island inhabiting the lower half of the East Coast, the South Coast, and islands in the Southern Ocean. The heavily built bulls weigh up to 410 Kg and are black or dark brown. Mature bulls have a mane of rough hair. Females are much smaller, about half the weight of bulls with silver-grey coats with cream abdomens.

I captured images of a magnificent bull hauled out at Pilots Beach on Otago Peninsula, a pup at Surat Bay Beach in Clutha and a cow at Waipapa Point also in Clutha.

Galápagos sea lions are an endemic and endangered species found mostly on sandy beaches on all the Galápagos Islands. Males can weigh up to 250 kg, are brown, dark brown to grey but black when wet. Females are lighter brown/tan and weigh about half that males.

Australian fur seals inhabit coastal waters in South East Australia and Tasmania. I photographed them at Gippsland Lakes. There were females and pups hauled at on the rocks at Lakes Entrance channel and bulls swimming in the channel along with Burrunan dolphins.

Females are silvery-grey with a creamy-yellow throat and chest with a chocolate brown belly while the males are dark grey/brown have a mane of coarse hair on their neck and shoulders. The pups have almost black backs with grey/light-brown bellies. Adult males are large weighing up to 360 kg; females weigh about one-third of a male.

Galápagos fur seals are small, stocky, large-eyed, endemics that prefer rocky shorelines. Adult males weigh up to 64 kg, females about half that weight. Often found around the western islands of Fernandina, Isabela, and Santiago. I photographed a pup and male on the latter two islands, respectively.

New Zealand Fur seals are a common resident species in all New Zealand’s coastal waters and along the Southern Australian Coastline and Tasmania. I photographed them at several locations along the East Coast of New Zealand’s South Island: At Oahu Point, north of Kaikoura, the seal colony is close to the main highway so great place to photograph them. The females haul out and sleep while the pups play in the rock pools.

New Zealand fur seals are dark brown on the back, lighter underneath and look black when wet. Some individuals look silvery. Adult females have an average weight of 50 kg while adult males weigh in at over three times that of females. 

Cetaceans and Carnivores Taxonomy

The Mammals Photo Album webpage describes the higher-level taxonomy for featured families placed in superorder Laurasiatheria.

Cetaceans (Order Cetacea) splits into two suborders:
(a) Odontoceti (Toothed Whales) with one family: Delphinidae (Dolphins and relatives),
(b) Mysticeti (Baleen Whales) contains four families, species from three features in the photo album:
(i) Physeteridae (Sperm Whales),
(ii) Balaenidae (Right and Bowhead Whales),
(iii) Balaenopteridae (Rorquals).

Many authors consider the Galápagos sea lion (Zalophus wollebaeki) to be a subspecies of Zalophus californianus (called Z. c. wollebaeki).

Marine Carnivores (Order Carnivora) comprise suborder Caniformia (Caniform Carnivores) with three families including Otariidae (Fur Seals and Sea Lions) featured in the gallery.