Amazon River Dolphin Facts

(Inia Geoffrensis)

Introduction

You will often hear the Amazon River Dolphin referred to as the Boto Dolphin. This is one of the river dolphins found in the world. Due to the mystifying appearance of it, many legends in the culture of the Amazon include them. Some of these stories suggest that the dolphins are really handsome men that will seduce young women that come to the water.

Description

The body shape of the Amazon River Dolphin is very unique and that makes it easy to tell them apart from other species. They have a body that is long and filled out. They have fins that are shaped like paddles with a ridge on their back instead of a dorsal fin. They also have a bulging forehead which is called the melon. The eyes are small and they have chubby looking cheeks. The beak is very long and they can have as many as 140 teeth.

The color of this dolphin ranges from a bluish gray color to white. They can also be pink which is very interesting indeed. They have flexible necks because not all of the vertebrae in their necks are fused. This gives them the ability to move their head in various directions. They are the largest of all the river dolphins. The males can be just over 8 feet with the females around 7 feet long. The males can weigh up to 400 pounds with the females around 330 pounds.

What is very interesting is that in spite of such a heavy body, they are able to move with ease and not use a great deal of energy to do so. They have very broad flukes that are triangular shaped. They don’t swim fast but they are efficient in their movements. They have lots of trees and other elements in their habitat to maneuver around and they have no trouble doing so.

Amazon River Dolphin - Inia Geoffrensis.

Amazon River Dolphin – Inia Geoffrensis.

Distribution

The Amazon River Dolphin lives around the basins where the Amazon River and Orinoco River drains. Both of these rivers are found in South America. They are known to be found around many areas including Columbia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Guyana, Ecuador, and Peru. They can live up to 1,865 miles from the shore!

They have an overall distribution that covers close to 7 million square kilometers. They do have limits in their environment including marine waters, rapids that are impossible for them to pass, waterfalls, and even some areas of these rivers that are simply too shallow for them to successful get through.

What is very interesting is that the Amazon River Dolphin can survive in plenty of different types of micro habitats. For example, they do well in the mouth of a river, in a lake, below waterfalls, in small channels, and around main rivers. As long as the water temperature is warm enough and they have food, they should be able to do just fine.

For this species of dolphin, one of the significant influences of where they will reside though is the amount of water in terms of how high it is. During various times of the year, the water levels will drop too low in certain areas which triggers migration for the Amazon River Dolphin.

Behavior

These dolphins may live in pods that only contain 2 members. Others are small pods with about 15 members. They aren’t as social as other species of dolphins so the larger groups aren’t often seen. They prefer to keep them at lower numbers. They form strong bonds within their pod and they seem to be the most active early in the morning as well as again later in the evening.

They don’t swim fast but they are still very playful as well as quite curious. They tend to get very close to the boats in the water to explore them.Sometimes, they will interact with other species of dolphins. They have been seen taking part in lob tailing, waving flippers, and rolling. They aren’t deep divers so they are frequently seen at the surface of the water. It is seldom that you will see them with the flukes out of the water.

They are very playful and they have been seen pulling at grass under the water, playing with logs, and even playing with other forms of aquatic life in the water such as turtles and fish. The flexibility of their bodies allows the Amazon River Dolphin to swim through some very tight areas. They can also swim upside down if they need to. Some experts believe this is to allow them better vision as their chubby cheeks could make seeing downward hard in the water when they are upright.

Feeding

Fish make up the majority of the feeding for the Amazon River Dolphin, and there are at least 50 types of fish they can dine on. They are highly dependent on the health of the fish populations for their own survival. They have been known to also consume crabs and turtles when their normal food supply isn’t enough. Almost all of their feeding efforts take place in the shallow areas of the water.

Since they live in much smaller groups, reliance on group feeding isn’t common with this dolphin. Instead, they tend to do their own hunting early in the morning and then again later at night. They consume approximately 2.5% of their own body weight daily in food. This is about half of the average body weight of consumption for other species of dolphins.

Part of their strategy to get food is to hang out around waterfalls and mouth areas of the river. This is where there are disruptions for the schools of fish and that makes them much easier for the Amazon River Dolphin to capture.

Boto Dolphin facts.

Reproduction

Females are ready to mate before males, around 6 to 10 years of age. Males are ready to mate between 7 and 12 years of age. It takes about 11 months for the young calves to be born after mating. The birthing time is usually in July as the water levels are decreasing and the fish are moving into the major water areas. The timeframe between births can be up to 5 years for the Amazon River Dolphin. They are known to be able to survive in the wild for up to 30 years.

Conservation Status and Threats

The Amazon River Dolphin continues to be threatened due to pollutants in the water. Not only do they make it very hard for the dolphins to survive, it also depletes the rivers of the food sources they need to get enough to eat. In some of these rivers, the implementation of hydroelectricity and irrigation have isolated the dolphins into segregated areas of habitat. They don’t have the ability to migrate when water levels are too low or when there isn’t enough food for survival in a given location.

In Bolivia and Brazil, these dolphins are fully protected by the law. There are some efforts on International levels in place to offer them the same protection in Venezuela, Peru, and Columbia. The fact that so many tourists come to see the pinkish colored dolphins is also a reason for some to take part in preserving them in order to keep people coming back to see them.

Amazon River Dolphin Infographic!

Amazon_River_Dolphin copia

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