Elusive River Dolphins Caught Chatting Up a Storm
by Brigit Katz, Smithsonian.com
Araguaian river dolphins are highly elusive creatures. Identified as a unique species just five years ago (though the classification is subject to debate), these cetaceans are solitary, shy of humans and endangered. Only 1,000 may be alive today.
As a result, these dolphins are difficult to observe and there is much that remains unknown about them, including the nature of their communication. Previous theories posited that the animals’ vocal repertoire was more limited than that of their chatty marine relatives—like bottlenose dolphins—since Araguaian river dolphins are thought to spend much of their time alone. But as Gizmodo’s George Dvorsky reports, a new study suggests that Araguaian river dolphins are quite talkative indeed.
The mysterious animals belong to a South American group of river dolphins known as “botos,” which are found only in the Amazon, Orinoco, and Tocantins river basins, according to the new paper, published in the journal PeerJ. Though botos are typically skittish, there is a group of Araguaian dolphins that has become accustomed to humans; the animals hang out near a market in the Brazilian town of Mocajuba, where human shoppers feed them tasty fish.