10 Incredible Amazon River Dolphin Facts

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Updated: October 8, 2022
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Inia geoffrensis is an Iniidae-toothed whale also known as a “pink” river dolphin. This Araguaia river dolphin’s clade is unknown. However, subspecies include the Amazon River Dolphin, Bolivian River Dolphin, and Orinoco River Dolphin. The three subspecies live in the Orinoco, upper Madeira, and Amazon basins.

Interestingly, most people don’t realize that exotic species live outside the Amazon’s canopy and undergrowth. However, many river dolphins live in the muddy waters of the Amazon River today! Want to learn more about Amazon river dolphins? Let’s explore 10 incredible Amazon river dolphin facts right now!

1.      Amazon River Dolphins Are Brainiacs

Pink River Dolphin Nose

The pink Amazon river dolphin is the most intelligent of the five species of river dolphins still in existence.

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Dolphins, whether freshwater or marine, are known to interact socially with humans and learn quickly. The pink Amazon river dolphin is the most intelligent of the five species of river dolphins still in existence, with a brain capacity 40% larger than humans.

2.      Amazon River Dolphins Are Great Hunters

River Dolphins have a broad diet of fish, crabs, shrimp, and turtles!

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Amazon River dolphins eat more than 50 diverse types of fish, including crabs, shrimp, and even baby turtles. These dolphins utilize echolocation to help them find prey while they swim vertically and keep one eye on the ground below. Their heads can rotate 180 degrees, making them more visible in all directions.

3.      They Aren’t Just Found in the Amazon

Besides its namesake river, the Amazon River dolphin can also be in the upper Madeira River and the Orinoco River basin. The countries of Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana, Columbia, and Peru all use these river systems.

4.      They Seem to Enjoy Human Interaction

River Dolphins are going extinct

©Dennis Otten, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

Locals long-held, though shifting, belief in the mystical powers of river dolphins has helped keep them safe from harm, until recent years. Sadly, fishers who see them as competitors for other fish have been known to kill them and use their parts as fish bait. Additionally, dolphins are regularly caught accidentally in their nets.

They are also in jeopardy due to the ongoing deterioration of the Amazon basin, which has led to the loss of habitat and decreased food sources. Increasing levels of contamination have led to increased deaths among them, especially in regions close to mining sites where mercury is used in refining.

5.      Amazon River Dolphins Are Different From Flipper

Pink Like the genetically unrelated tucuxi, Amazon River dolphins have unique habitat-specific adaptations. They’re just distantly related to marine dolphins. They have a distinct appearance and barely break the top of the water rather than leaping like gray dolphins. Amazon river dolphins grow to be 6.5 feet long and 185 to 355 pounds, making them smaller than ocean dolphins.

6.      They Have Special Teeth And Hairy Noses

River Dolphins have tiny hairs on the ends of their noses that help them find food in muddy waters.

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Other characteristics that set these dolphins apart from others include the incisor teeth that help them digest their meals and the filament hairs at the tips of their noses that help them find food in the muck of river bottoms.

7.      They Are Among The Most Endangered Species Of The World’s Cetaceans

Despite being the most numerous types of river dolphin, Amazon River dolphins are critically threatened. They are currently classified as “endangered species-threatened” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Out of all the Cetaceans in the world, they are the most likely to go extinct.

8.      They Aren’t the Only Species of Dolphin in the Amazon

There a different species of River Dolphins

©user:Borsi112, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

The Gray Dolphin, or Tucuxi as it is known locally, is one of three additional species of dolphins found in the Amazon River; the other two are the Araguaian and Bolivian river dolphins. However, pink river dolphins are by far the most well-known species of Amazon dolphins in the world.

9.      Amazon River Dolphins Can Turn Their Necks 180 Degrees

In terms of anatomy, the Amazon River dolphin is distinct from other dolphin species. To begin with, the Amazon River dolphin is unique among dolphins because it has a lateral inclination of its neck via 180 degrees. Because of this trait and their ability to paddle forward with only one flipper while paddling backward using the other, they are better able to move when the river floods. Their agility allows these dolphins to swim up over wetland and around trees.

10.   There Is Much Myth About The Amazon River Dolphin

Amazonian folklore claims that at night, pink river dolphins disguise themselves as dashing men with white hats.

©frank wouters, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons – License

In certain cultures, dolphins were considered divine messengers. In Greek mythology, the son of Poseidon, Taras, was being rescued from a sinking ship when a dolphin rescued him. When Taras finally reached dry land, he promptly decided to build a new settlement. Amazonian folklore claims that at night, pink river dolphins disguise as dashing men with white hats (the hat conceals their blowhole) and stalk the rainforest in search of defenseless native women to impregnate!

The photo featured at the top of this post is © COULANGES/Shutterstock.com


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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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