A NEW RIVER-DOLPHIN FROM CHINA
By GERRIT S. MILLER, Jr.
(With 13 Plates)
The skull and cervical vertebrae of a river-dolphin killed in Tung
Ting Lake, about 600 miles up the Yangtze River, China, have re-
cently been obtained by the National Museum from Mr. Charles M.
Hoy. The following account of the animal has been given by Mr.
Hoy in letters and in conversation : " Although I lived in China for
several years I never saw this animal except in Tung Ting Lake and
around its mouth. The natives give it the name Peh Ch'i, which they
tell me means ' white flag ', because the dorsal fin, which they liken to
a flag, is so prominent when the animal comes to the surface to
breathe. The sudden appearance of a school of these whitish dolphins
close to a small boat is very startling. To the best of my knowledge
this animal is found in large numbers only around the mouth of the
Tung Ting Lake. In winter when the water of the lake is so low that
there is scarcely more than the river channel left they are easily seen
and are found in great numbers in bunches usually of three or four,
but occasionally of as many as 10 or 12 individuals. They are often
seen in shallow water working up the mud in their search for fish.
The one I killed had about two quarts of catfish in its stomach.
\\' hen shot it gave a cry like that of a water-buffalo calf. In summer
the water rises to a height of 48 feet above its winter level. The.
mountain streams feeding the lake are then full, and the dolphins
disappear. The natives say that in the late spring when the lake
is rising the dolphins make their way up the small, clear rivers, and
that these are their breeding grounds."
Contrary to what might have been anticipated this cetacean is not
Sotalia chinensis. It is one of the " anomalous " porpoises of the
family Iniidce.^ Well represented and widely distributed in the
Miocene and Pliocene this group is now so nearly extinct that only
two livine: remnants are known : Inia zeoffrensis in the Amazon and
^ See True, Proc. Amer. Philos. Soc, Vol. 47, p. 391, IQ08.
Smithsonian Miscellaneous Collections, Vol. 68, No. 9