Tucuxi Dolphin


DOLPHIN THREATENED? WHAT IS WWF DOING? SCIENTIFIC NAME: SOTALIA FLUVIATILIS RIVER DOLPHINS AT RISK We don’t know the exact number left of these dolphins, but we do know that the numbers are decreasing. The species is classified as data deficient by IUCN. The Tucuxi is the smaller, gray counterpart to the Amazon River dolphin. Various names have been used in the literature, most frequently marine tucuxi, gray dolphin, estuarine dolphin, and recently costero. We avoid the controversy here by using “Guiana dolphin,” based on the Scientific name. Marine tucuxi dolphin ( Sotalia guianensis) and its interaction with passive gill-net fisheries along the northern coast of the Rio de Janeiro State, Brazil. Marine Biodiversity Records, Vol.

South American fresh-water dolphins, tucuxi are as enchanting as they sound: playful, vivacious and highly social.

Known as the ‘other dolphin’ of the Amazon, there is still a lot to be learned about tucuxi, including their range. Part of the Sotalia genus, the two supposed-populations have now been recognized as separate species: the freshwater tucuxi and the marine Guiana dolphin.

Tucuxi is a species of dolphin, which is quite similar to the bottlenose dolphin, but smaller. A dark stripe runs between the animal's mouth and flipper. The back is blue to light grey, while the belly is white or whitish-pink. The animal has long and slender beak.

Other names:

Sotalia, Gray dolphin

Maximum length1.5m1.5m0.7m
Maximum weightUnknown53kgUnknown

What do tucuxi look like?

Tucuxi are highly aesthetic dolphins who aren’t dissimilar to bottlenose dolphins in appearance. Smaller than Guiana dolphins, they only grow to a dainty 1.5 metres long and weigh around 50kg. Whilst their bodies are coloured in muted tones of blues and greys, their bellies are much lighter in shades of ivory, grey or pink. Stood proudly on their backs, tucuxi have low, triangular dorsal fins. To their sides, they bear broad flippers whilst their faces have pronounced beaks. Although tucuxi can be up to 30% smaller than the Guiana dolphins, their ranges overlap and it’s nigh on impossible to tell them apart when only brief glimpses are seen.

What is life like for Tucuxi?

Whilst they have been seen in larger groups, tucuxi are most often found in small pods of just a few individuals. Together, they are extremely sociable and execute impressive stunts such as spyhopping, lobtailing, flipper-slapping and porpoising. They are, however, not so keen on socialising with people. Not ones to bow-ride or seek out human interaction, they prefer not to be approached and generally keep themselves to themselves. When they dive, tucuxi tend to only stay down for short periods of time, usually lasting 30 seconds to one minute. As well as other tucuxi, these dolphins are also happy to mingle with botos, the majestic, pink river dolphins.

The estimated population size for tucuxi is unknown.

What do Tucuxi eat?

Tucuxi eat a wide variety of freshwater fish and crustaceans.

Where are tucuxi found?

Tucuxi have made themselves at home throughout the Amazon basin and possibly in the Orinoco River too and are found therefore in rivers throughout Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil. Although protected in some areas because of their legendary importance, in other areas tucuxi are deliberately targeted by fishermen who view them as threats to their trade and for use in traditional medicine. As well as this, they also face very real dangers in the form of pollution, accidental bycatch and getting caught in fishing gear, human interference, habitat loss and the constructions of dams.

Under threat

The eyes and genital organs from tucuxi are used by some local people as aphrodisiacs.

Tucuxi Dolphin Smart

The main threats...

  • Pollution – toxic chemicals along with plastic, litter and oil spills seriously harming their health and their ability to have young.
  • Fishing gear – tucuxi get accidentally caught in fishing nets and lines, injuring or even killing them.
  • Hunting - tucuxi are killed for their body parts or because fishermen see them as competition.

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Tucuxi Dolphin Scientific Name

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Tucuxi (Sotalia fluviatilis) is a dolphin found both in the coastal waters and in the rivers of the Amazon Basin to the north and east of South America. These dolphins are very much similar to the bottlenose dolphin. These dolphins are of two types, i.e., the freshwater tucuxi and the marine tucuxi. These species are light grey to bluish-grey on their back, and are pinkish to light grey on their belly. The pink coloration can also be seen sometimes on the lower jaw and the throat. Their dorsal fin is triangular, rounded and curved and it is slightly hooked at the tip. They also have a long and slender beak with a rounded fore-head. Their upper and lower jaw contains (26 to 36) pairs of teeth. These species grow up to a size of 152 cm and weigh up to 55 kg. These dolphins are generally smaller as compared to the other species of the dolphins.

Habitat and Behavior
These species are found in both saltwater as well as freshwater. They can be found in the Brazil, Florianopolis, Caribbean Sea and near Panama Canal. These dolphins are the inhabitants of lakes and rivers. These species avoid flooded forests as well as rapid and fast-moving turbulent water. They can be found along 2500 km of the Amazon and 250 km upstream in the Orinoco River. The marine tucuxi are found in bays and estuaries. These are social creatures and are found in a group of (10 to 15) individuals. Sometimes they can be seen in a group of 30 creatures. These are also seen to be jumping in clear waters.

These dolphins feed mainly on fish as well as krill and crustacean. These species are known to feed on about 28 species of fishes.

Reproduction / Breeding
Much is not known about the reproductive or breeding habits of these species. The calving in these species occurs in September to November. The gestation period in these species is about 11 months. They have a life span of about 30 and 35 years, in marine and river respectively.

Threats and Conservation
These species of dolphins are killed in gillnet fisheries. These are also caught accidentally in fishing nets and killed. The destruction of their natural habitat for development of coasts by human being is also one of the major threats to these species. The hydro-electric damming projects may cause these species to become isolated. These modern projects are also responsible for killing the migratory fishes, which are considered as the important diet of these species. Moreover, pollution level in the water also causes these species to die. The pollution in the water by the industrial companies is becoming one of the biggest threats to these freshwater species. These species are widely distributed in Amazon River but the scientists do not know the exact number of these species. The Orca and Bull Shark are the natural predators of these species. Some of these tucuxi dolphins are also kept in captivity in Europe.