The Amazon River dolphin or Boto is a freshwater dolphin that lives in the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in Bolivia, Brazil, Columbia, and other South American countries. This dolphin is small, growing to 9.2 feet and weighing around 350 pounds.
- In the spring, heavy rains flood the Amazon River, forcing it beyond its banks. The river spreads out over thousands of acres of land, forming marshy lakes. The Amazon River dolphins swim through these lakes, eating small fish and crustaceans.
- Six months later, the lakes dry up and the Amazon returns to its beds. The dolphins go with it.
- Male river dolphins are sometimes pink. Their pink skin is caused by roughhousing with other males. Scientists believe their pink skins attract females—the pinker the skin, the better.
- Male river dolphins go to great lengths to get a female’s attention. They will wave grass, sticks, or even live turtles in their mouths.
- River dolphins can bend their necks 90 degrees, a useful skill when they’re swimming through tree branches and bracken in the marshy lakes.
- Thousands of river dolphins live along the Amazon River Basin, so many, in fact, that they’re sometimes thought of as pests. Anglers catch them and use their meat for bait. The fishermen fish for catfish, which are sold in large cities.
- Gold-mining operations leach mercury into the river’s water. The mercury settles to the bottom of the river and is consumed by catfish that feed on the small animals living there. When dolphins eat the catfish, they may experience mercury poisoning.
- Traditional Amazonian folklore says that river dolphins are magical beings, capable of becoming human and walking on shore.
- Crustacean: a hard-shelled marine animal, such as a crab or lobster
- Angler: someone who fishes
Questions and Answers
Question: Are Amazon River dolphins endangered?
Answer: They are not endangered, but they do face many challenges, all caused by humans.
Watch a video about the Amazon River dolphin.