Bolivian river Dolphin

Bolivian river dolphin by Ramon and Suzanne Vargas

Bolivian river-dolphin

Bolivian river dolphins were discovered by the Western world in 1832 by Alcide d’Orbigny. Initially considered a subspecies of the Amazon river dolphin, differences in body structure and the isolation of the Bolivian river dolphin meant it was reclassified as its own species in 2012. In a study conducted in 2015, it was also noted that any gene flow between I. geoffrensis (downstream) and I. boliviensis (upstream) would be a one way path flowing from upstream to downstream due to the Teotônio waterfall between them.

Even with gene flow, these populations would also remain morphologically different from each other due to the differences in the environment in which they live. Differences in seasonal water depth and speed would result in morphologically different species. However, for now, these populations are considered subspecies of the same species.

Research is hard to do, as the number of the species is low.

They are listed as endangered. Other threats include several dams, and while there are ways for river wildlife to navigate this, it requires moving through fast water, which this dolphin species does not do.

It is classified as endangered, though estimates of the current population size are hard to find.

Below is a video of this species, and below that is a list of any time it is mentioned on this site. Under this, we hope to add links that will allow you to see them in the wild.

Aragualan River Dolphin

Araguaian river dolphin by Rio Cicica

Araguaian river dolphin

The Araguaian river dolphin or Araguaian boto  is a South American river dolphin population native to the Araguaia–Tocantins basin of Brazil.

The recognition of I. araguaiaensis as a distinct species is still debated. It was originally distinguished from the Amazon river dolphin in January 2014. On the basis of nuclear microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA data as well as differences in skull morphology (it generally has a wider skull). It also differs from the Amazon and Bolivian river dolphins in the number of teeth per hemimandible (24–28 versus 25–29 and 31–35, respectively).

River dolphins have a complex set of acoustic calls that help shed light on their personalities, behaviours and interaction with other river dolphins. In a study by Gabriel Melo-Santos et. Al they analysed frequency contours of 727 signals They found that these signals had a critical similarity value of 96% and frequency contours were categorized into 237 sound-types. Interestingly the most notable and frequent sounds were emitted when calves were present shedding light on a close and complex mother child relationship. The findings show that the acoustic sounds of river dolphins are incredibly complex and are similar to those of by social delphinids, such as orcas and pilot whales.

The total population of the species is estimated to be of the order of 600 to 1500 individuals, and genetic diversity is limited.[4] The ecology of its habitat has been adversely affected by agricultural, ranching and industrial activities, as well as by the use of dams for hydroelectric power. The inhabited section of the Araguaia River probably extends over about 1500 km out of a total length of 2110 km. The Tocantins River habitat is fragmented by six hydroelectric dams, so the population there is at particular risk.[4] The authors of the discovery paper regard its probable eventual IUCN status to be Vulnerable or worse.

The largest number of individuals of the new species is likely to occur in and around Cantão State Park, which contains most of the lakes in the Araguaia basin. However, commercial fishermen around the park have been killing them because they sometimes steal fish from nets. Shooting is common, but around protected areas like Cantão, where the sound of a gun might attract park rangers, some fishermen have taken to putting out poisoned bait for dolphins. The southernmost population of the species is a small group of isolated individuals in the Tocantins river above the Serra da Mesa dam.

Below you will find a list of any articles which mention this species specifically, below that is a video of this species in the wild. Below this, we will list any tourism opportunities (if any that we connect with).

Amazon River Dolphin

Amazon river dolphin by Oceancetaceen sometimes known as the Orinoco

Amazon Dolphin

The Amazon river dolphin, (other names include boto, bufeo or pink river dolphin), is a species of toothed whale endemic to South America and is classified in the family Iniidae. Three subspecies are currently recognized: Amazon river dolphin,, Bolivian river dolphin and the Orinoco river dolphin while position of Araguaian river dolphin  within the clade is still unclear The three subspecies are each found in a separate river basin (in order) the Amazon basin, the upper Madeira River in Bolivia, and the Orinoco basin.

The Amazon river dolphin is the largest species of river dolphin, with adult males reaching 185 kilograms (408 lb) in weight, and 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) in length. Adults acquire a pink colour, more prominent in males, giving it its nickname “pink river dolphin”. Sexual dimorphism is very evident, with males measuring 16% longer and weighing 55% more than females.

Like other toothed whales, they have a melon, an organ that is used for bio sonar. The dorsal fin, although short in height, is regarded as long, and the pectoral fins are also large. The fin size, unfused vertebrae, and its relative size allow for improved manoeuvrability when navigating flooded forests and capturing prey.

They have one of the widest ranging diets among toothed whales, and feed on up to 53 different species of fish, such as croakers, catfish, tetras and piranhas. They also consume other animals such as river turtles, aquatic frogs, and freshwater crabs. However, this is not particularly surprising, as there are so many forms of life in the Amazon rainforest, and plenty is likely to occasionally find themselves in the river.

In 2018, this species was classed as endangered, by the IUCN with a declining population. Threats include incidental catch in fishing lines, direct hunting for use as fish bait or predator control, damming, and pollution; as with many species, habitat loss and continued human development is becoming a greater threat.

While it is the only species of river dolphin kept in captivity, almost exclusively in Venezuela and Europe, it is difficult to train and often die very young, when kept in captivity..

Life expectancy of the Amazon river dolphin in the wild is unknown, but in captivity, the longevity of healthy individuals has been recorded at between 10 and 30 years. However, a 1986 study of the average longevity of this species in captivity in the United States is only 33 months. An individual named Baby at the  Duisburg Zoo, Germany, lived at least 46 years, spending 45 years, 9 months at the zoo.

Below you will find any news articles on Amazon dolphin (though articles with both words also get sucked in). Also  we will add any information on where you can go to see these in the wild, beneath both of these.

Primate family tree main and great and lesser apes

Primate family tree

The primates are in some ways one of the most successful families. It is true that many are now endangered, however, unfortunately, that is as a result of the run-away success of the most successful member of the primate family us! Having left the rainforests behind, we have been reducing their coverage dramatically over the last few centuries. 

The sad thing, is that while we have pushed many of our closest cousins towards extinction, the loss of forests may well cost us dearly in the future as well. As a species, we need to pull together to meet this challenge. in order to jump to the various families, click on the family of interest above – though all can also be reached by scrolling down.

Great Apes

Great ape Family split is thought to have split from its nearest relative – the gibbon family, around 17 million years ago.

4 million years later the Orangutan family split from the gorilla line and the human/chimp line.

3 million years after this (so around 10 million years ago) the gorilla family split from the Homo (humans) and Pan

Finally the human line (homo) split from the Pan line 5-6 million years ago.

It should be noted, that chimpanzees and Bonobos split from a common ancestor just 1.8 million years ago. This occurred as the two populations ceased to be able to have contact with each other – the Congo rive formed between 1.5 and 2 million years ago.

For more information on each species, click on their photo and this will take you to their page

It should be noted that while I have grouped eastern western and skywalker gibbon together, there is some contention that the skywalker gibbon should be in its own genus, having diverged around half a million years aog

Gibbons

Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises family tree

Cetaceans -Whales, porpoise and dolphins

Few people can avoid stopping to watch, if they spot cetaceans from a cliff. While the family is wide and varied, they are all pretty interesting. From some of the largest and most intelligent hunters such as killer whales to the largest animal on earth the blue whale.

Whale and dolphin watching tourism is worth a lot of money – this can be essential, as in many places the extra money helps a community survive. 

I hope, overtime, to make this section of the website as large a list of places to view cetaceans and people who will help you in that quest.

As might perhaps be suspected, all of the mammal species which have returned permanently to the sea, and developed breathing holes located on their back (and therefore perfectly placed for taking quick breaths) are  related.

So what is the most closely related living land mammal? Perhaps obviously, it is a species which spends much time in the water – the hippopotamus.

As with all of these pages, as we create pages for each individual species, they will be linked to the photo below.

So the baleen whales are split into three families, these are not large as there are only 16 species of baleen whales in the world. At the current time, there are roughly 1.1 million baleen whales in the worlds oceans

Below is a family tree of the group

 

Baleen Whales

Baleenideae – the rhight whales

 

The first  living split is Baleenidae, this family is not huge. The north atlantic and north pacific are closest related, these species are closely related to the Southern pacific right whales. Their name is unfortunate – it is called right whale for 3 reasons, it swims slowly, floats when dead and carries a large amount of oil. This lead to all these species being hunted close to extinction.

The other family is called Balaenopteroidea. Here species peel off slowly. I will list them in the order that they split.

The first split is the minke whale – of which there are 2 species, the common and southern minke whale, with the grey whale being the next most similar.

The next are the humpback whale and the fin whale followed by the Blue whale.

The last group of whales are from a group called the Brydes whales complex

This completes the list of baleen whales. The other branch of the Cetaceans is known as the toothed whales

Toothed Whale

.I am going to look at them in 3 groups, though the third is not particularly closely related to each other

  • Delphinoidea: This includes
    • Monodontidaes – Belugas and narwhals
    • Phocoenidae – The family of Porpoises (7 species) such as harbour porpoises and Vanquita

 

    • Delphininidae – these are the oceanic dolphins – 37 species split into several subfamilies which we will deal with one by one.
Subfamily Delphininae – 15 species (tamanend bottle nose dolphin only recognized as separate species, will build page for it at some point when photos are readily available.

Subfamily  Globcephalinae 11 species

Subfamily incerta sedis (latin for “of uncertain placement” )6 species

Subfamily Lissodelphininae 6 sppecies

Subfamily Orcininae

  • Inioidea : This includes 3 groups
    • Iniidae (only 1 of 5 genus remains -Inea (4 species: Araguaian river dolphin, Bolivian river dolphin  and Orinoco dolphin)
    • Lipotidae: which contains only one species: the Baiji or Chinese river dolphin
  • Pontoporiidae: which contains one species 

The next family is the beaked whales. There are 24 species, of which only 3-4 have been well studied. This is because they spend much of their time deep in the sea, it appears that each species does not have many members and they are incredibly reclusive in their habits.

One might ask how an air breathing animal can spend so much of its time deep in the ocean? Well the Curved beaked whale has had a dive timed at 138 minutes. More incredible, they only need around 2 minutes to catch their breathe before sinking back into the depths. This means that if required, they can spend just 20 minutes out of 24 hours at the surface – an incredible stunt.

There appear to be a great number of species that are extinct – these we will not list, but will mention each subfamily in passing.

Incertae sedis contains 5 extinct genus, Basal forms include 13 extinct genus

Subfamily Berardiinae contains 3 genus, 2 of which are extinct, but the third contains 3 living species (and one dead) .  

Genus Beradius

 

Next we cover the Bottlenose whales

Northern                                                                                                                     Southern and                                                        Tropical

Subfamily Ziphiinae  contains 5 genus, 3 are extinct, but two have just one species in each

Genus Tasmacetus: Shepherds beaked whale Genus Ziphius: Cuviers beaked whale

Click on the image to see it in full

As you can see from the whale family tree, the sperm whales are separate from the rest. However, they are toothed whales so belong in this section of the page.

Margay

A Margay from Costa Rica Taken by Supreet Sahoo

Margay

This is a relatively small wild cat that is found in central and Southern America, living in primary evergreen and deciduous forests. Until the 1990s they were illegally hunted for the wildlife trade, causing a significant decrease in the wild population. Sine 2008 they have been listed as near concern due to declining population, thought to be caused by habitat loss. It is classed as near threatened -one up from least concerned, but one down from Vulnerable.

Currently found from the Northern points of Mexico (it has not been seen in the USA since 1855 – indeed the only USA record comes from this time,, however fossils show it once ranged through Southern Texas, and may even have roamed as through Georgia Florida and South Carolina – or at least an animal very similar) through central America to Brazil and Paraguay and even reaching as far south as Uruguay and Argentina.It is a skilled climber, and is confident enough in the tree-tops to chase monkeys and birds for food. Its ankles are flexible enough to turn 180 to make it easier coming back down the tree. It is usually solitary, but lives in home ranges (meaning they are not territorial and home ranges will overlap) that cover 11-16 square km (4.2-6.2 square miles)

There are currently 3 recognized subspecies, these are in turn found South of the Amazon, North of the Amazon and in Central America.

 

The Oncilla (northern and Southern)

This is an Oncilla taken by Groumfy69 in a zoo

Oncilla (northern and southern)

The Oncilla is a small spotted cat found from central America to the Central Amazon. In 2013 it was proposed to split the species into two, as they did not interbreed, however I would argue that this should be at the subspecies level. The Southern Oncilla lives in Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina, while the Northern Oncilla ranges from central America to central Brazil – time will tell if these two cats are subspecies or are distinct enough to be considered different cat species

 

Amazon deforestation has fallen over 60% since last July

Great progress is being made in slowing rainforest destruction in Brazil with great falls in the last year. It is true that this rate needs to fall to zero in the near future, but great progress is being.

A lot of this progress is as a result of the end of the Bolsonaro regime, and could swing back should a similar person come to power.

However, what is clear is that if the Amazon reaches a tipping point and starts to dry out, it will rapidly die, and at this point there is unlikely to be enough rain for the regions croplands to remain (the crops will no longer grow as a result of the lack of rain).

It is essential that the rest of the world invests heavily in this region, in order to give a clear alternative to soy and cattle rearing in order to earn a living.

Jaguar

Jaguars are the only big cat not found on the supercontinent. Dominating much of South America, and before the arrival of humans much of Southern North America

photo credit MarcusObal

Jaguar

Jaguars are the only big cat that is found in the Americas. Superficially looking like a Leopard, it is actually no more closely related to a Leopard, than a Lion or Tiger.

Once (as late as the year 1900) ranging from Southern Argentina- north through the rest of South America, and throughout Mexico and the Southern United states (some 19 million square km) its current range is greatly reduced, see the map below.

A map of Jaguar range. Red is the current range, pink is the range back in 1900. As you can see, it only leaves the Jaguar as the king of the Amazon

Wonderful swimmers, fantastic hunters and strong cats, they were undisputed as the apex or one of the apex predators in every environment in which they lived.

They are known to regularly take livestock where it is possible. Possibly as a result of having only millennia rather than the eons that native animals have, they have not learnt to fear humans and keep their distance as healthy populations of lion leopard and tiger do.

However, there is also a huge draw to see this animal in its native habitat. The easiest way to see Jaguar, is usually from a boat on a river.

As with other species on this site, I hope to add many destinations over the next few years. Below these links will be a list of all articles on Jaguars,  and we  will add all the destinations and links we have, as we make them below the news section.

From the great Pantanal – Brazil’s area of wetland, to a number of reserves across the amazon rainforest (it is estimated that 57,000 Jaguars still survive in the fragments of the Amazon rainforest that still stand.  On top of this, there is still significant jaguar habitat in Mexico and central America. One of these was set up by the late great Alan Rabinowitz, who fought right up to hist death for protecting places like Cookscomb basin reserve in Belize.

As with many other wildlife around the world, travel to see these animals is essential, if we are to give a financial incentive to those who live and work in the country. Get in touch if you work in conservation of this incredible animal, or tourism. Link is at the top of the main page (or click here)

 

 

Soy cultivation can expand in Brazil, by one third without cutting down another tree – by taking over unused grazing land

There is a constant tug of war, between developed countries which are encouraging developing countries to continue to protect their wildernesses, and the developing countries wish to be able to develop – to lift their citizens out of poverty.

In one shot: soy farming at the front, rainforest behind and you can see cattle grazing areas at the back

In one shot: Soy cultivation at the front, standing rainforest is next and in the back you can see areas of cattle grazing

Continue reading “Soy cultivation can expand in Brazil, by one third without cutting down another tree – by taking over unused grazing land”

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