What is the reason behind the Pink Dolphins pink color?

Is there anything more magnificent than a dolphin? They are one of the most intelligent creatures on the planet, possessing both beauty and grace that matches their intellect. Observing dolphins leap out of the water and into the air is an exhilarating experience. With their long beaks, round heads, and vibrant pink skin, they are easily recognizable!

Wait. Pink skin? Aren’t most dolphins gray? And long beaks? If you’ve seen numerous saltwater dolphins, that description may sound unfamiliar. However, we are referring to a specific type of freshwater dolphin – the Amazon river dolphin, to be precise!

The Amazon river dolphin, also known as the boto, inhabits the basins of the Amazon and Orinoco Rivers in South America. During periods of flooding, the rivers expand, covering thousands of miles of the rainforest. This creates a larger habitat for the boto. Throughout the rainy seasons, botos can be observed swimming among the flooded tree roots and other vegetation of the rainforest.

It is the unique appearance of the boto that distinguishes it from other dolphins. It possesses special vertebrae that allow it to navigate through trees by bending at 90-degree angles. Its beak is longer and its forehead more rounded compared to the majority of dolphins you may have encountered. Botos are also slightly smaller, measuring around eight feet in length and weighing approximately 450 pounds. And yes – many Amazon river dolphins have bright pink skin!

The cause behind their pink skin remains a mystery. Experts still have conflicting opinions regarding what leads botos to develop this color. However, it is known that all Amazon river dolphins are born gray. Some of them, typically males, transform into pink later in life. Additionally, they tend to become even pinker as they age.

This has led some experts to believe that the pink skin is a result of scar tissue. Male botos are known to engage in frequent fights, and their bodies may accumulate battle scars, causing them to turn pink. This theory also explains why botos become pinker with age, as older dolphins are more likely to have been involved in numerous fights and acquired more scars.

Other scientists propose that the pink skin of the boto serves as a camouflage mechanism, helping it blend in with its surroundings and hide from predators. After all, the mud on the flooded rainforest floor often takes on a reddish hue. It would make sense for botos to develop pink skin in an attempt to blend into this environment.

Blending in is a priority for many botos. They tend to be very shy, which makes it challenging for experts to determine their population size accurately. However, when botos do display interest in humans, they are incredibly friendly. They have been known to play with children in shallow water.

According to local legends, botos go to great lengths to establish friendly relationships with people. A South American tale suggests that Amazon river dolphins have the ability to transform into human beings. Some claim to have seen them walking near bodies of water at night, wearing hats to cover their blowholes.

Regrettably, not all humans are as friendly towards botos. They often encounter conflicts with fishermen. Some fishermen use botos as bait for catching fish, while others perceive them as competitors for fish and kill them. Additionally, many botos are accidentally caught in fishing nets intended for smaller fish, resulting in their death.

Have you ever wanted to see a boto? How about seeing one that can transform into a human? While that old tale may not be true, there is still something enchanting about these vibrant pink dolphins!

Give It a Try

Make sure to have a friend or family member assist you with one or more of the activities listed below.

  • Are you inspired by the legends of the Amazon river dolphin? Can you imagine what it would be like to be a dolphin that could change into a person? What kind of adventures would you have? Would you face any challenges? Write a story about the thrilling adventures you could experience!
  • Curious about what the Amazon river dolphin looks like? Take a look at these pictures. Would you like to meet a boto one day? Explain to a friend or family member why or why not.
  • Read about the various other types of river dolphins. How does one species of river dolphin compare to the Amazon river dolphin? Create a list of similarities and differences. Then, share what you have learned with a friend or family member.

Sources of Wonder

  • https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/a/amazon-river-dolphin/ (accessed 23 Oct. 2019)
  • http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20160426-why-one-species-of-dolphin-has-turned-pink (accessed 23 Oct. 2019)
  • https://www.worldwildlife.org/species/amazon-river-dolphin# (accessed 23 Oct. 2019)
  • https://www.britannica.com/animal/river-dolphin (accessed 23 Oct. 2019)


1. Why is the Pink Dolphin pink?

The Pink Dolphin, also known as the Amazon River Dolphin or Boto, gets its pink color from a combination of factors. Firstly, their skin is naturally light grey, but their blood vessels are located close to the surface, giving it a pinkish hue. Secondly, the Pink Dolphins have a layer of fat called blubber under their skin, which can also appear pink. Additionally, the Pink Dolphins live in murky waters with high levels of sediment, which can further enhance their pink coloration. It is believed that their pink color serves as a form of camouflage, helping them blend in with their environment and making it easier to catch prey and evade predators.

2. Are all Pink Dolphins pink?

No, not all Pink Dolphins are completely pink. While they generally have a pinkish hue, some Pink Dolphins may appear more grey or even white. The intensity of their color can also vary depending on factors such as age, gender, and overall health. Young Pink Dolphins, for example, tend to have a lighter pink color that becomes more pronounced as they mature. Additionally, environmental factors, such as water temperature and sunlight exposure, can also affect their coloration.

3. Where can Pink Dolphins be found?

Pink Dolphins are native to the Amazon River and its tributaries in South America. They can be found in countries such as Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. Within these regions, they inhabit freshwater rivers, lakes, and flooded forests. The Pink Dolphins have adapted to live in both saltwater and freshwater environments, allowing them to swim between the Amazon River and the Atlantic Ocean. However, their population has been declining due to various threats, such as habitat destruction and pollution.

4. What do Pink Dolphins eat?

Pink Dolphins are primarily piscivorous, meaning they primarily feed on fish. They have a varied diet that includes species such as catfish, piranhas, and small river dolphins. Pink Dolphins are known to be skilled hunters, using echolocation to locate their prey in the murky waters. They have a flexible neck and sharp teeth, which enable them to catch and consume their prey with precision. Additionally, Pink Dolphins may also eat crustaceans, shrimp, and other small aquatic creatures found in their habitat.

5. How long do Pink Dolphins live?

The lifespan of Pink Dolphins in the wild can vary, but on average, they live for about 20 to 30 years. However, some individuals have been known to live longer, reaching up to 40 years of age. The exact lifespan of Pink Dolphins can be influenced by factors such as food availability, water quality, and the presence of predators. In captivity, where they are protected from these threats and provided with proper care, Pink Dolphins can live even longer.

6. Are Pink Dolphins endangered?

Yes, Pink Dolphins are considered to be endangered. Their population has been declining due to several factors, including habitat destruction, pollution, and overfishing. These dolphins are particularly vulnerable to human activities, such as dam construction and deforestation, which disrupt their natural habitat. Pollution from mining, agriculture, and industrial activities also poses a threat to their survival. Conservation efforts are being made to protect and preserve the Pink Dolphin population, including establishing protected areas and raising awareness about their importance in the ecosystem.

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