Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Amazon River Dolphin

The Amazon River Dolphin is one of the four (possibly five) species of freshwater Dolphin found in the world. They live in the Amazon basin and go by a handful of other names, including Boto and Boutu.

Inia geoffrensis
"Pink Dolphin" is yet another name for the species, due to the coloration that many of the individuals exhibit. The precise cause of the pinkness is not known, but Dolphins in murkier water tend to be more pink than those in clearer areas. Some are even as bright as flamingos!

Amazon River Dolphins differ from other freshwater Dolphins in that they have unfused neck vertebrae. This trait allows them to turn their heads from side to side and give them extra maneuverability. They can also paddle their fins in different directions, which gives them the ability to move around submerged tree roots and through very shallow spots when the rivers flood over areas that are normally above water.

The social structure of the species is dependent on the time of year. During the flood season they tend to be solitary hunters. This is because the fish are able to disperse much farther through the new marshes, giving the Dolphins more hunting area. When the waters recede, some dolphins come together in small groups in order to share the more concentrated hunting areas. Adult Dolphins have no major predators (besides humans) and thus do not need to rely on large pods for safety and protection.

Amazon River Dolphin
Amazon River Dolphins are prominent in local legends. One popular story tells that the Dolphin turns into a handsome young man at night, who always wear s hat to cover his blowhole. He comes ashore and seduces young women, often impregnating them. During the daytime he returns to the river and the women are left under a magical spell.

Legendary or not, the Dolphins are facing some problems. Some fisherman deliberately kill them so that they do not need to compete for catches, while other Dolphins get inadvertently tangled in fishing equipment. They are also facing habitat destruction, fragmentation due to dam building, and troubles arising from the chemical runoff of mining operations. A full population survey has not been done, and the species is listed as Data Deficient.

IUCN Status : Data Deficient
Location : South America
Size : Body Length up to 8ft (2.5m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Mammalia -- Order : Cetacea
Family : Iniidae -- Genus : Inia -- Species : I. geoffrensis

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