When you think of dolphins, you likely picture oceanic dolphins—gray in color, leaping out of the water, and swimming in pods. Another type of dolphin, the Amazon pink river dolphin, may be less familiar to you, but these fascinating mammals are worth learning about so you can gain an appreciation for what makes them unique. Here are eight must-know pink river dolphin facts from your friends at Harbor Breeze Cruises:
#1: Pink River Dolphins Live in Freshwater
Sometimes referred to as “boto” or “bufeo,” the Amazon pink river dolphin resides in the rainforest rivers throughout South America. These river basins can be found in countries such as Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Venezuela. The largest Amazon pink river dolphin populations exist within the Amazon and Orinoco river systems. They’re often found swimming alone or with a few other pink river dolphins; they rarely congregate in large groups in the rivers they call home.
#2: Their Pink Coloration Is Achieved Over Time
The Amazon pink river dolphin has a bluish-gray coloration at birth. It’s not until they begin to grow and mature that they begin to turn pink. Male pink river dolphins tend to be much pinker than females; this seems to be on account of their interest in fighting and the wounds they have sustained. Over time, the pink scar tissue they develop replaces their gray coloring. For male pink river dolphins, their “well-earned” pink coloration helps them attract a mate. The pinker the male dolphin, the more the female dolphin will be interested in mating with him because of his obvious aggressiveness, which will be needed to protect their infants.
#3: Males Work Hard to Impress Females During Mating Season
In addition to flaunting its pink coloring, the male Amazon river dolphin attempts to further “prove” his aggressiveness and strength by biting and then waving an object in the female’s direction—this could be anything from a floating branch to a live turtle—during mating season, which occurs around the end of October through the beginning of November. If the male Amazon pink river dolphin can’t get the female’s attention by waving around his chosen object, he’ll begin to twirl in circles and repeatedly smack the object on the water’s surface.
#4: Pink River Dolphins Have Distinctive Features
If you were to compare a photo of an oceanic dolphin that guests may spot while on a Harbor Breeze cruise to that of an Amazon river dolphin, you’d quickly notice differences in their appearance. The Amazon pink river dolphin has a longer and skinnier snout and a rounder, bulbous forehead.
While they have small eyes in proportion to their pronounced foreheads, their eyesight—combined with their unfused neck vertebrae—make it possible for pink river dolphins to turn their heads 180 degrees and spot prey in their murky freshwater habitat.
Their nimble bodies, complete with large, paddle-shaped flippers and a low dorsal fin, allow pink river dolphins to be dexterous swimmers. They can swim backward, upside-down, and pivot quickly; their magnificent maneuverability helps them weave their way through submerged trees and shrubs so they can catch prey. They even have bristle-like hairs at the end of their snouts that make it easier for them to locate their next meal.
#5: Pink River Dolphins Have Molar-Like Teeth
We, humans, have molars in the back of our mouths, which are large, flat teeth that help us grind and chew food. So, too, do pink river dolphins! The Amazon pink river dolphin is the only dolphin known to have molar-like teeth that help them masticate their food before swallowing. The incredibly diverse diet of an Amazon pink river dolphin includes a variety of fish, shrimp, crabs, and even turtles, so these teeth come in handy when it’s time for them to eat.
#6: One Well-Known Legend Claims They Take Human Form
According to Amazonian legend, the Amazon pink river dolphin takes human form and stalks the rainforest at night when the moon is at its brightest. This legend asserts that pink river dolphins possess a magical power that enables them to shed their dolphin form and take on an enchantingly beautiful human appearance. They’re unable to completely hide their identities, however, so they must wear white hats to cover their blowhole. It’s said that these mysterious shapeshifters take to the villages seeking love and companionship, which they often succeed in finding based on their captivating allure and undeniable charm.
#7: Amazon River Dolphins Are Curious and Intelligent Creatures
Though they are known to be rather shy, pink river dolphins have been known to approach and interact with humans. Pink river dolphins try to earn locals’ and tourists’ attention, leading to many memorable social interactions between humans and these pink cetaceans. On that note, the Amazon pink river dolphin seems to have quite the sense of humor, as they’ve been known to snatch oars from distracted fishermen!
#8: Efforts Are Underway to Protect Pink River Dolphins
It’s difficult for researchers to calculate how many pink river dolphins exist today. That’s because they don’t swim together in large groups and the river basins where they reside are quite dark and murky. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Cetacean Specialist Group, which “promotes and facilitates the conservation of cetaceans worldwide,” has published findings on the use of pink river dolphins as fish bait, which has been directly linked to dramatic declines in their populations in certain parts of the Amazon. Conservation efforts are aimed at protecting these dolphins as well as other Amazonian wildlife.
Book a Tour with Harbor Breeze Cruises
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading these pink river dolphin facts. At Harbor Breeze Cruises, we’re intrigued by all underwater creatures, even those that we don’t get to introduce you to during our family-friendly cruises!
While you won’t get to see pink river dolphins on one of our cruises, there’s a strong possibility that you’ll get to see other species of dolphins, along with whales and other spectacular marine life, during a whale watching and dolphin tour. Our custom-built, state-of-the-art catamarans are designed to give you the ultimate ocean wildlife viewing experience.
We invite you to celebrate and admire the diverse array of underwater creatures that inhabit the Pacific Ocean with Harbor Breeze Cruises. Tours can be booked online or by calling 562-432-4900.