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Date of this Version



Published in MARINE MAMMAL SCIENCE, X2): 193-195 (April 1989).


Guiler, Burton and Gales (1987) reported a cranium (Tasmanian Museum No. A141 1) they identified as belonging to Burmeister’s porpoise, Phocoena spinipinnis Burmeister, 1865 from Heard Island (53°S 73°30’E). They noted that P. spinipinnis was previously known only from the cold-temperate coastal waters of South America and claimed that this cranium was evidence that the species has a much wider distribution than previously known. We have examined the photographs and details of their specimen and re-identify it here as Australophocaena dioptrica (Lahille, 1912) (family Phocoenidae).

Barnes (1985) listed several features that distinguish the skulls of species within the subfamily Phocoenoidinae (including A. dioptrica) from those species within the Phocoeninae (including Phocoena spp.). Features that distinguish A. dioptrica from P. spinipinnis, dearly visible in the published photographs of the cranium from Heard Island, include: a relatively small, oval-shaped temporal fossa; an elevated, high-vaulted braincase that slopes abruptly onto the narial region; relatively large, high and convex premaxillary bosses; dorso-ventrally expanded zygomatic process of the squamosal; short and antetoposteriorly expanded postorbital process of the fronds; and maxillae extendmg nearly to the dorsal margin of the supraoccipital on the top of the skull. In all these features, the Heard Island specimen conforms with those of A. dioptrica. Crania of A. dioptrica have been illustrated by Hamilton (1941), Norris and McFarland (1958), Brownell (1975), Fordyce et al. (1984), and Barnes (1985). Crania of P. spinipinnis have been illustrated by Norris and McFarland (1958) and Brownell and Praderi (1984).