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Scientists discovered new River Dolphin Species in Amazon; this is first discovery in 100 years

Feb 11, 2014 15:15 IST

Scientists in January 2014 discovered a new species of river dolphin in the Amazon River system. This discovery is the first discovery in almost 100 years and it is believed that this species will be enlisted as endangered status of IUCN Red list. The small group of river dolphins were discovered by a team of experts from Federal University of Amazons in Manaus, Brazil.

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This species has been named as botos and were found in the Araguaia basin where they were separated from other populations by only a narrow canal and series of rapids. Araguaian boto name was suggested by the team who discovered the fact that this species is distinct after closer inspection and DNA test. Scientists say that these Araguaian botos are the closest relatives of Inia geoffrensis and Inia boliviensis genetically. But it varies from other two species as they have different number of teeth and has a wider skull. Due to local taboos, these dolphins are generally not hunted directly in Amazon but they face risks from the hydroelectric projects, boat traffic, and pollution.

Scientists feel that this species of dolphins were separated from other group of dolphins about two million years ago, which has caused the difference between them in terms of genetics and morphological basis. They have also discovered the evidences that individual species from the Araguaia River represent a distinct biological group.

Over a 12 week study, the experts have observed around 120 Araguaian animals and following the study they have estimated that not more than 600 species are left in the complete river basin.

The research was published in the journal Plos One.

Since 1918, this discovery of Araguaian variety of dolphins is the first discovery. The last discovery of river whales species by the scientists was Lipotes vexillifer (Chinese baiji), now extinct. These whales were declared as functionally extinct after a survey mission conducted in 2006 that failed to find a single specimen of the species.

Background
Overall, the species of river dolphins are included and defined as threatened and falls under the IUCN’s (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Red List. Three of the four previously known species falls under this list as they are rarest animals found in the world.

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Other recent discoveries of the world
• Apart from this discovery, scientists in October 2013 discovered a new species of arapaima (a giant torpedo-shaped fish) in the central Amazon waters of Brazil.
• In August 2012, the scientists of Brazil discovered a new species of blind snake named as atretochoana eiselti, related to salamanders and frogs. This species was discovered after a hydroelectric dam was drained over a river connected to Amazon. This species was discovered by biologists at the bottom of the bed of Madeira River in Rondonia.

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