SUFB 118: La Plata River Dolphin Profile

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In memory of the dolphin that died last week after being passed around for selfies (which we discussed yesterday), we here at SUFB have decided to dedicate today’s Species Tuesday to the La Plata River Dolphin (Pontoporia blainvillei).

Also known as the Fraciscana dolphin, this small marine mammal is one of the rarest dolphins in existence. As it’s name suggests, the La Plata River Dolphin typically spends the majority of its time in shallow, coastal waters or in nearby estuaries with dark, turbid waters. They are found sporadically throughout the southwest Atlantic Ocean, in the waters of Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil.

This species is well known for its unique morphology, as Pontoporia blainvillei only reaches between three and five feet and weighs only about 110 pounds. These dolphins have proportionally the longest beak of any cetacean (up to 15% of their body length), which they use to feed on any large invertebrates and fish they can find in their estuary and ocean habitats.

While many locals from the southeastern coast of South America are familiar with the La Plata River Dolphin, many visitors or tourists remain unaware of its conservation status. Listed as vulnerable by the IUCN, this species has historically been a major victim of gillnetting and other industrial fishing techniques that result in high amounts of bycatch. Therefore, it’s important that ecotourism organizations and local governments stress how threatened this rare species of dolphin is and what visitors can do to help make sure they remain protected.

Enjoy the Podcast!

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