Inia – Amazon river dolphin

The family of the largest river dolphins inhabits South America’s freshwater river basins

The Amazon river dolphin, also known as the pink river dolphin or boto (Inia geoffrensis), is one of the most fascinating cetacean species inhabiting freshwater ecosystems. Found primarily in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins, these dolphins are distinguished by their striking coloration, varying from dark grey in younger individuals to vibrant shades of pink in adults. The intensity of their pink coloration can change due to physiological responses to emotional states, water temperature, and activity levels, a feature unique among dolphins.

These remarkable creatures have several adaptations that make them well-suited to life in the murky waters of rivers and floodplains. Amazon river dolphins have unfused neck vertebrae, unlike their marine counterparts, granting them exceptional flexibility. This allows them to navigate the complex underwater environments of the flooded rainforest, including maneuvering around trees and other obstacles in search of prey. Their diet mainly consists of fish, but they consume crustaceans and occasionally small turtles.

Amazon river dolphins are known for their curious and playful nature, often approaching boats and interacting with humans. This behavior reflects their high intelligence and social complexity. Males, in particular, engage in unique courtship behaviors, such as carrying objects like branches or clay balls in their mouths. This is thought to be a display meant to attract females or assert dominance over other males.

Despite their intriguing behavior and ecological significance, Amazon river dolphins face numerous threats. Habitat destruction due to deforestation, pollution from agricultural runoff and industrial waste, and accidental bycatch in fishing gear are significant challenges to their survival. Additionally, the construction of hydroelectric dams disrupts their natural migratory patterns, affects their food supply, and leads to population fragmentation.