Saturday, December 18, 2010
December 18, 2010 : River Dolphins
River dolphins are four living species of dolphin which reside in freshwater rivers and estuaries. River dolphins inhabit areas of Asia and South America. They are classed in the Platanistoidea superfamily of cetaceans. Three species live in fresh water rivers. The fourth species, the La Plata Dolphin, lives in salt-water estuaries and near-shore marine environments. However, it is scientifically classed in the river dolphin group rather than the oceanic dolphin family.
River dolphins are in danger of extinction due to habitat loss, hunting by humans, and naturally low numbers.
The largest river dolphins usually grow up to 2.4 meters (8 feet) long, but most of the animals are smaller. River dolphins may be white, pink, yellow, brown, gray, or black.
The four families of river dolphins are classified by Rice, 1998 as belonging to Platanistoidea. Formerly Platanistidae was listed as the only extant family of the Platanistoidea superfamily. The previously accepted classification treated all four families as belonging to this family and treated the Ganges and Indus River Dolphins as separate species. Five lineages of dolphin have evolved to live in big, muddy rivers. River dolphins are thought to have relictual distributions. Their ancestors originally occupied marine habitats, but were then displaced from these habitats by modern dolphin lineages. Many of the morphological similarities and adaptations to freshwater habitats arose due to convergent evolution. A December 2006 survey found no members of Lipotidae (commonly known as the Yangtze River dolphin) and declared the species functionally extinct.