Saturday, 19 April 2014

The Amazing Amazon River Dolphin

The Amazon River Dolphin, (Inia geoffrensis), is also called Bufeo, Boto, and Pink River Dolphin as well as a number of local names. This wonderful dolphin species is confined to freshwaters of the Orinoco, Amazon, and Araguaia/Tocantins River systems. It never moves into seawater and can not move up-river above rapids and shallow water.


It is the largest of the river dolphins weighing up to 180 kg and reaching a length of 2.6 m. Most adults are pink, but some have darker backs or are mostly gray. It is believed that the Boto's pink color comes from fine blood vessels close to the surface of the skin.

Amazon River Dolphins are unique in that their neck vertebrae are not fused into a rigid structure. Instead they can bend their neck at a 90 degree angle to their body, and skillfully hunt food in the flooded forest tree roots. They have 25-30 peg-like front teeth for catching prey, mainly  crustaceans, crabs, turtles, and fish.

The Boto's eyes seem small and ineffective but are actually as large as those of other dolphins but are protected by fleshy pads. When the rivers are running fast and filled with muddy water, the Boto’s echolocation allows it to navigate through the flooded forest.

Females become sexually mature between 1.6 - 1.8 m in length when they are between 6 - 10 years old. Females give birth to a single calf every 4-5 years. Mother and offspring stay very close for 2-3 years and the calves are fed milk for the first year. Males appear to reach sexual maturity at body lengths over 2.0 m.

Mythology surrounds the Amazon River Dolphin. It is thought to be a shape shifter, able to change to a young man and seduce village women into pregnancy. In the morning the Encantado (enchanted one) returns to the river as a dolphin.

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