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article imageNew species of river dolphin discovered

By Tim Sandle     Feb 1, 2014 in Environment
This week scientists revealed the results of a DNA sequencing study. The study showed that a new river dolphin species resides in the rivers of South America.
Scientists have only been aware of two species of river dolphins residing in the freshwater network that includes the basins of the Amazon River and the Araguaia and Tocantins Rivers in South America. These are termed Inia geoffrensis and I. boliviensis (or 'Amazon river dolphin').
Amazon river dolphins are between five and eight feet in length. Remarkably they have unfused neck vertebrae, enabling them to turn their heads 90 degrees. Their flexibility is important in navigating through the flooded forests. The females are typically larger than males
The dolphins are listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to pollution, overfishing, excessive boat traffic and habitat loss.
News was released this week that researchers from the Federal University of Amazonas in Brazil have found DNA evidence to suggest there is a third species, separated from the other two species by rapids in the Araguaia River. The third species has been described as: I. araguaiaensis.
Tomas Hrbek, one of the scientists involved, told the BBC that "It was something that was very unexpected. It is an area where people see them all the time. They are a large mammal. The thing is nobody really looked. It is very exciting."
However, Hrbek also noted that the new species may face even greater conservation challenges than the others, for there are probably only around one thousand of these dolphins left.
The new dolphin has been outlined in the journal PLOS One, in a paper titled "A New Species of River Dolphin from Brazil or: How Little Do We Know Our Biodiversity".
More about River dolphin, Dolphin, Rivers, South america
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