La Plata River Dolphin or Franciscana Dolphin

(Pontoporia blainvillei)


The Franciscana dolphin, which is also called the La Plata River dolphin, is one of the rarest dolphins in South America.Due to this uniqueness, there is little known about it.

It grows to be between 4 and 6 feet long, and weighs up to 115 pounds, and its body is a grayish brown color. Even though sightings of the Franciscana dolphin are scarce, it can be found in the Doce River, in Brazil, and the Peninsula Valdes in Argentina. It can also be found in the coastal waters of Uruguay. This is the only species of river dolphins that can be found in salt water.

If you are ever in South America, and stop by the La Plata river, you can look deep enough into the river beds to find the La Plata River dolphin. This species of dolphin is one that has been recognized through it’s unique features and it’s abilities to range into a different habitat than most other dolphins.

Top Facts

The La Plata River Dolphin is well known because of where it chooses to build it’s habitat. It ranges through the La Plata River, which moves through Brazil and Argentina. Despite other fresh water dolphins, this particular dolphin has not adapted to only one type of water living. It can move back and forth from the salt waters of the ocean and to the river waters that are fresh. They have adapted to this because of the location of the La Plata River being near the Atlantic Ocean.

This dolphin was recognized and recorded as a species in the early 1800s. However, before this time, it was a common known dolphin among Brazilians and those in Argentina. It is often referred to as the Franciscana or Toninha and is highly regarded among the cultures in the area. Most understand and respect the living space of these dolphins, making them one of the few that live in the river beds but who are not facing extinction.


The La Plata River Dolphin has the advantage of taking food from both the rivers and the ocean, because they can dwell in both areas. This is what allows them to have their water feasts. Specifically, they are known to eat a wide variety of fish that dwell in the river beds. However, they are also known to find squid, shrimp and octopus that may be nearby. They will find their food through a direct attack from predator to prey.


The sexual maturity of the La Plata River Dolphin occurs at a much earlier age than most, typically ranging between the years of two and three. They also will give birth to their calves at an earlier time frame, with the season being close to October and January. This is because of the change of seasons in the area, causing the warmer times of year to be the best breeding times. The dolphins will remain pregnant for an average of ten months, with their calves being nursed for an average of nine months after birth. They will stay with their mothers for one to two years before they move into a slightly different habitat.


The La Plata River Dolphin is recognized by it’s anatomy. Specifically, they are smaller than most other species of dolphins, usually never getting over three to five feet and weighing approximately 90 pounds. The males and females are typically around the same size.

Another feature of this dolphin is it’s skinny and small nose, as well as fins. While the body may seem a little stocky, the other characteristics are usually placed down to size. They are also a lighter color than most dolphins, being a light brown because of the water in which they dwell in. Some who have seen these dolphins call them ‘white ghosts’ because of their light features and looks.


The world of the La Plata River Dolphin is one that has created an adaptable way of living in South America. Through their features, characteristics and distinguishing looks, they are able to remain a respected breed in the waters. As they continue to move through this river area, they also continue to remain a distinguished feature of the La Plata River.

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