In this lesson, you will learn about the Amazon River dolphin. It is a fresh water animal that is quite different from the dolphins that live in the ocean.

Fresh Water Dolphin

Did you know that not all dolphins live in the ocean? A few species live in fresh, or non-salty, water. The largest of these is the Amazon River dolphin. The most surprising thing about these animals may be their color. Some of them are a vivid pink!

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Amazon River dolphin.
Picture of Amazon River dolphin

Habitat

The Amazon River dolphin is also known as the boto, bouto, bufeo, and pink river dolphin. It lives in the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in South America. It eats water animals like catfish, piranhas, shellfish, and turtles.

The Amazon River dolphin lives in the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in the northern part of South America.
map

Description

Size

The Amazon River dolphin is a mammal, so its babies are born live, not hatched from eggs. At birth, they weigh about 15 pounds and measure 32 inches long. That’s about twice as heavy and tall as a human baby. Adults average about 6 feet long though they can be 8-9 feet, with males growing the biggest. An average adult river dolphin weighs about 350 pounds.

Beak

Amazon River dolphins have a long slender beak (the front part of their head–where their mouth is) that curves at the end. They have some stiff hairs on the top and bottom of their beaks. Scientists think these give them a sense of touch when they are poking around in a muddy river bottom, trying to find food. They are the only type of dolphin to have two types of teeth: one type is at the front of their beak for grabbing prey and another type is at the back for grinding as they chew.

You can see the two types of teeth in the open beak of this dolphin.
Picture of the open beak of the dolphin.

Breathing, Seeing and Hearing

Behind their beak, these dolphins have a round part of their head, called a melon. At the top of their head is a blowhole for breathing. Amazon River dolphins have small eyes above chubby cheeks. Some scientists think the cheeks make it hard for them to see what is below them. This may be the reason they often swim upside down. Amazon River dolphins have large ear openings and hear well.

Body

Amazon River dolphins have a very flexible neck that can bend in every direction. They don’t have a fin on their backs, but instead have a ridge. They have large flippers and flukes. The flukes are the parts that stick out from their tail. The flippers and flukes are designed to help them swim in rivers.

Color

The most surprising characteristic of Amazon River dolphins is their color. At birth, they are dark gray on top. As they grow this color changes to pink, sometimes getting very bright. The color of old dolphins fades to light gray or almost white.

Threats to the Amazon River Dolphin

Amazon River dolphins are hunted by fishermen so they won’t be competition for the smaller fish the fishermen want to catch. The dolphins may also get accidentally caught in fishing equipment. Some dolphins are caught to make leather from their skins or use their fat for cooking. In some areas, the food that the dolphins need to live is no longer plentiful, so it is hard for them to survive. Also, pollution is damaging some of their habitats.

Lesson Summary

The Amazon River dolphin is special because it lives in fresh water and has two types of teeth. It sometimes swims upside down and can bend its neck in every direction. Most unusual, however, is its pink color.