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Mammals of Iraq: Finless Porpoise (Neophocaena phocaenoides)

Posted on Jul 30, 2008 by in Marine Mammals, Theme Weeks | 4 comments

Neophocaena phocaenoides

Number 0190

This littlest of the cetaceans lives in the seas of Asia and the East Indies, including the Persian Gulf. So named because it lacks the dorsal fin that other porpoises have, the finless porpoise is a slow-moving fellow who frequently finds himself, an innocent byswimmer, killed by errant fishing methods. Sometimes he’s hunted for his meat, his skin, or his oil, too. Female finless porpoises have a neat child-rearing adaptation: there’s a rough spot on their backs that serves as a saddle where their babies can ride without slipping off.Porpoises and dolphins are related, but they’re in different families.* There are a few characteristics you can use to tell them apart. Generally, dolphins have beaks while porpoises don’t, and porpoises have small, round heads. Porpoises, other than this species, anyway, have triangular dorsal fins, while dolphins’ dorsal fins are hooked. Also, porpoises have stockier bodies than the slender dolphins do.

Speaking of dolphins and the Persian Gulf, the US military has used dolphins, sea lions, and other marine mammals for reconnaissance and mine-finding missions for more than four decades, including in the Persian Gulf since at least the late 1980s. More recently, 152 dolphins mysteriously washed up dead on the shores of Iran: “Suicide or murder? Iran blames US after 152 dolphins die,” says the Guardian.

*Of course, this is controversial. Some scientists think dolphins and porpoises are members of the same family (the dolphin one, to be precise). As regular Daily Mammal readers know, we usually come down on the side of More Mammals! Also, here’s a helpful mnemonic device: Kids Pour Coke On Fat Green Snakes. What does it help me remember nearly every day?

Consecutive days of mammals: 1
Record: 16

4 Comments

  1. The same thing that KP Crisps on Friday go stale helps me to remember:

    Kingdom
    Phylum
    Class
    Order
    Family
    Genus
    Species

  2. Exactly, Clare! KP Crisps—are they good? I like how my American version has Coke and your British version has crisps. It makes me think of a compromise version: Keep Pringles Cans Open For Good Snacking.

  3. kings play chess on fine green sand…

  4. That’s a good one, too, Liz! Now, where did you and Clare learn your mnemonics? I learned mine at some point in elementary or middle school, but I don’t remember exactly when. Could it be that Mrs. Kleinbeck had a lasting positive effect on me?

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