Hi-ho, Bunjy here! It’s time for another installment of Weird Biology, and today I’m going to introduce you to a creature that looks like it flopped awkwardly out of a Lisa Frank concept art book.
(He’s Boto’ mess you up if you don’t stop laughing)
Botos are the world’s most numerous river dolphin. (Yes, river dolphins are totally a thing. Weird, right?) They flop around obnoxiously in rivers throughout much of South America, though most of them live in or around the Amazon basin. They are also the world’s largest river dolphin, with males reaching lengths of well over eight feet and weights of over 400 pounds, which places them firmly in the category of “animal I would not fistfight under any circumstances”
(They don’t even have fists and I still wouldn’t.)
The Boto is also a weird grayish pink that I would personally describe as ‘Unsettlingly Corpse-y’. Seriously, it’s like Lisa Frank meets The Walking Dead. And this color isn’t a static thing- the Boto actually starts life grey and transitions to pink as it gets older and scrapes itself up a bunch. It does this mostly by running into things and getting into slapfights with other dolphins.
The Boto is well-adapted for river life, to the point where they’ve become mildly upsetting to look at. Unlike their sleek spunky ocean cousins, Botos are floppy flappy twisty turny blob creatures. Their soft, flexible bodies allow them to navigate between tree roots and rocks like disjointed but effective muppets. They are also one of the only cetaceans to have a functional neck, rather than the fused vertebrae most of them have to deal with. This adaptation greatly improves their flexibility, but it’s 1000% more disturbing than it sounds.
(I would not, however, ever say this to a Boto’s face. Because I am not suicidal. Did you see the teeth?)
But moving on- because of their muddy muddy river life, Botos have terrible eyesight and rely on their sonar to find prey. And they eat a wide variety of prey- from fish, to some other, slightly different fish. (I’m kidding, Botos actually do eat a wide variety of animals and it’s one reason that they’re so common. But they greatly prefer fish, yes. Picky eaters.)
Botos are skilled, intelligent predators perfectly adapted to their river lifestyle and are a common sight in the rivers of South America. They are offered many protections across their range, possibly due to that one legend that says that if you look one in the eyes, you will have nightmares for the rest of your life. It just goes to show, there are many different ways for an animal to succeed and no real metric for success. You can always do well if you work with what you’ve got (and also have nightmare eyes).
1- Mônica Imbuzeiro, Wikimedia Commons
2- Lcainbinder, Wikimedia Commons
3- Dennis Otten, Wikimedia Commons