AMAZON RIVER DOLPHIN
A dolphin might be the last thing you expect to see twisting and turning through South America's flooded forests – but the Amazon river dolphin (also known as the pink river dolphin or boto) is right at home in this ‘aquatic treescape’. Its lack of a proper dorsal fin and sinuous movement (assisted by unfused neck vertebrae) help it to avoid snagging on submerged branches. Keen echolocation also plays a vital role in navigating the often murky, silt-laden waters, as well as homing in on prey. A long, slender beak lined with touch-sensitive bristles is ideal for poking around in mud and other places where river turtles, freshwater crabs, armoured catfish and other dolphin delicacies tend to lurk.
Amazon river dolphins grow to around 2.5m in length and give birth to a single calf. The discovery of a closely related species – Inia araguaiaensis – was reported from Brazil’s Araguaia River as recently as January 2014.
Spotting tip: A river cruise in Peru’s Pacaya Samira National Reserve offers one of your best chances for spotting Amazon river dolphins. Their colour ranges from pale grey to dusky pink and although they are usually seen alone or in pairs, it’s not unheard of to find them in pods of up to 20.