Bolivian river dolphin – Inia boliviensis

Inia boliviensis

The Bolivian river dolphin - Inia boliviensis. Source: http://www.allvoices.com

Unique new species of Amazon river dolphin isolated by raging rapids

Scientists in Bolivia have recently discovered a new species of dolphin, which lives only in the Bolivian Amazon, cut off from other river dolphin populations by a series of 18 impassable rapids between Bolivia and Brazil.  The Bolivian river dolphin – or bufeo as it is better known locally – has evolved in this riverine isolation to develop as a separate species to its better known cousins.  The Bolivian species is lighter grey in colour and has a larger row of teeth than other river dolphins.

As you might expect, the Bolivian government is very proud of this unique new population, and has designated the Bolivian river dolphin as a Natural Heritage species, and prioritised its conservation.  The river dolphins are highly sensitive to pollution, and so provide excellent indicators of the overall health of the river system.

It is amazing to think that in a world where nature often seems to have been entirely explored, described and named, it is still possible for entirely new populations of such large creatures to be discovered.  It certainly makes you wonder what other curious aquatic populations are lurking in our lakes and rivers, (as yet!) undiscovered by science?!

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