Bolivian River Dolphins’ Play Date With Anaconda Leaves Researchers Baffled

Dolphins are known for their playful nature. But have you ever saw dolphins interacting with each other while holding an anaconda in their jaws? Sounds like a far-fetched idea, doesn’t it? However, a recent discovery has revealed that such a remarkable incident took place last year, leaving researchers perplexed. In August 2021, a research team documented some Bolivian river dolphins near the Tijamuchi River in Bolivia. The fact that these dolphins are rarely seen above the water’s surface prompted the experts to observe them. What the researchers saw next, though, was even more bewildering.

On examining the photographs clicked over the course of seven minutes, the experts discovered that the dolphins had a huge Beni anaconda wedged in their jaws. The study’s findings were published in the journal Ecology. While describing the observation, the researchers said the dolphins were clearly having fun with the snake instead of trying to attack it. After looking at the initial photographs, while it was difficult to determine the dolphins’ group number, the experts revealed there were at least six of them.

There is no definite conclusion about this behaviour of the dolphins. This is so because the dolphins interacted with the anaconda in a few different ways. They occasionally swam together in a synchronised fashion. For most of the time, the dolphins stayed in a radius of 70-80 metres or moved 230-262 feet downstream, according to a report.

There are different speculations about the dolphins’ behaviour. The group consisted of male dolphins and juveniles. According to some experts, the adults could have been teaching hunting techniques to the young ones, while others believe that the juveniles could’ve been present at the spot out of curiosity.

Another theory indicates this amusing behaviour of dolphins to be sexual in nature. “Afterwards, we were able to observe on the photographs that the adult males were sexually aroused while engaging in object play with the anaconda,” the experts stated.

Scientists are not sure about what happened to the snake later. It might have died as it didn’t move during the interactions and stayed underwater for a long time.

Beni anacondas may grow up to 6-and-half feet in length and reside in the same portion of the Amazon rainforest in northeastern Bolivia as the Bolivian river dolphins.

River dolphins are more difficult to monitor than ocean dolphins as rivers are muddier and harder to manoeuvre than oceans. However, these photographs are still a useful insight into how these mammals spend some of their time.


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