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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 06, 2021

17 South Asian River Dolphin Facts You'll Never Forget

South Asian river dolphin facts deliver interesting features about this gray dolphin.

The river dolphins living in the South Asian rivers are also known as the Ganges river dolphin. A Ganges river dolphin is an aquatic creature that belongs to the class of Mammalia or mammals. These aquatic mammals are endemic to the Indian subcontinent in South Asia. The Ganges river dolphins are found to inhabit the freshwater river systems of the subcontinent. The dolphins of this species are gray to brown in color with very long snouts and a flat beak; flexible neck, long flippers, and dorsal fin are among the other unique features. These endangered species have two subspecies, namely the Platanista gangetica gangetica and Platanista gangetica minor; the former species inhabits the Ganges Brahmaputra, Meghna, and Karnaphuli rivers, whereas the latter species are the Indus river dolphin that inhabits the Indus river of India.

Dolphins of this species are about 330-374 lb (150-170 kg) in body weight and measure approximately 78.5-102 in (200-260 cm) in length. The South Asian River dolphin population is decreasing alarmingly; one of the main reasons is the high level of pollution in the rivers of the Indian subcontinent like the Ganges. For more interesting facts about animals, check out these tayra and puma fact files for more.

South Asian River Dolphin Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a South Asian river dolphin?

South Asian River dolphins are aquatic creatures, but unlike fishes, they belong to the class of Mammalia, similar to giant aquatic mammals like the whales. However, unlike whales and many other species of dolphins, these species spend their lifetime swimming across the freshwater of rivers.

What class of animal does a South Asian river dolphin belong to?

South Asian River dolphins belong to the class of Mammalia or mammals under the kingdom of Animalia; however, this species has similar features to fish, these mammals have flippers, a long tail, and a dorsal fin that help them to swim across the rivers and survive in an aquatic environment.

How many South Asian river dolphins are there in the world?

This species of dolphins living in the Ganges and the Indus rivers have been facing drastic population decline as a result of environmental changes triggered by river pollution leading to habitat loss. Human hunters have also contributed to their cause of being an endangered species of dolphins. Presently, there are around 3,500 individuals left in the Ganges, and only approximately 1,500 dolphins reside in the Indus river.

Where does a South Asian river dolphin live?

The species of the Asian River dolphin (Platanista gangetica) lives in freshwater river systems of the Ganges and Indus river and other freshwater lakes in the Indian subcontinent.

What is a South Asian river dolphin's habitat?

South Asian River dolphins inhabit the freshwater rivers of the Indian subcontinent. The subspecies of the Ganges River dolphin (Platanista gangetica gangetica) live in rivers like the Ganges, Brahmaputra rivers, as well as their tributary rivers like Meghna; and Karnaphuli-Sangu river systems along with their tributary rivers in Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan. The other subspecies of the Indus River dolphin (Platanista gangetica minor) live in the waters of Indus river that lies in India and parts of Pakistan. Ganges river dolphins also inhabit the freshwater lakes linked to the rivers as well as lagoons like Chiilka in Odisha, India. These species of dolphins inhabit approximately 9-30 ft (2.75-9.15 m) deep layers of the water bodies.

Who does South Asian river dolphin live with?

Unlike most dolphins, South Asian River dolphins are not the most social animals. They prefer living a solitary life. However, at times they can be spotted in a group of 3-10 individuals.  

How long does a South Asian river dolphin live?

The oldest male dolphin of the species lived till 28 years of age, and the longest living female was 17 years old. Ganges River dolphin can live for about 15-25 years on average, although sufficient information about their life span requires further research about the species. In comparison, the Irrawaddy dolphin has a lifespan of around 20 - 25 years,

How do they reproduce?

Young individuals of the species of Ganges River dolphins and Indus dolphins (Gangetica minor) reach sexual maturity approximately 10 years. Adult female dolphins are even larger than males; they experience non-seasonal reproductive sessions; a female dolphin gives birth to a single offspring once in a couple of years and has a gestation period of about 9-10 months which is similar to that of human beings. The young ones are about 30-40 lb (14-18 kg) in weight at the time of their birth. Female dolphins give birth to young ones generally during the dry winter season. As monsoons set in the subcontinent, these dolphins and their young ones, along with the pod's other members, migrate to the tributary rivers.

What is their conservation status?

The population of the Ganges river dolphins is decreasing rapidly; one of the main reasons is the alarming level of pollution in the rivers of the Indian subcontinent like the Ganges. The mortality rate of the species has been high owing to their habitat loss due to the influence of global warming. Global warming has negatively affected the ranges and schedule of their migration and breeding. Human poachers have also been equally responsible for the decline of their population. The South Asian River dolphins have been marked as an endangered species by the IUCN Conservation Red List.

South Asian River Dolphin Fun Facts

What does the South Asian river dolphin look like?

The Ganges River dolphins have pale brown to gray hue.

The Ganges River dolphin varies in color from gray to brown; the species have distinct features like their elongated snout, which is thicker near the end of it; their snout occupies 20% of their entire anatomical length; dolphins of this species does not have hair on their snouts which distinguishes them from the other species of dolphins. Dolphins of this species usually have a very flexible neck, lengthy flippers, and a long tail that proves to be beneficial for them while locating and catching their prey. They also contain long, pointed teeth with an asymmetrical skull. Adult females are easily distinguishable by comparing the length of their snouts with the adult males. Dolphins of the Ganges also have a dorsal fin that is similar to a hump of a camel but fleshy in nature, they have flat beaks, and unlike other aquatic animals, they use lungs for breathing and often keep their nose above water while swimming. They are not as distinct-looking as the Atlantic spotted dolphin.

How cute are they?

Dolphins of this species are quite friendly and look too cute with their dorsal hump and cute flippers. The pods of these dolphins often swim near the boats of tourists, near lagoons like Chilika, and unknowingly entertain the tourists making these lagoons the prime sites of dolphin viewing that attracts many tourists.

How do they communicate?

Dolphins living in the Ganges (just like the other species of dolphins) use ultrasonic sound waves to communicate among the other members of their pod. Dolphins also use ultrasonic waves to locate and catch their prey inside the water bodies.

How big is the South Asian river dolphin?

Dolphins of this species are about 154-198 lb (70-90 kg) in body weight and measure approximately 78.5-102 in (200-260 cm) in length. These dolphins are larger in size than some species of river sharks. The two sub-species are almost similar in size; however, the dolphin found in the Ganges has a longer tail than the Indus River dolphin. Adult female dolphins grow larger than males and have longer snouts after they reach sexual maturity.

How fast can a South Asian river dolphin swim?

A Ganges River dolphin can swim at a fast speed of about 16 mi (27 km) in an hour; however, the average speed of an individual is considerably lower than that. These dolphins have long flippers, a long tail, and an elongated snout which helps them to swim very fast across the river water.

How much does a South Asian river dolphin weigh?

South Asian River dolphins are about 330-374 lb (150-170 kg) in body weight. Adult female dolphins grow larger than males and have longer snouts after they reach sexual maturity.

What are the male and female names of the species?

Male and female individuals of this particular species have not been assigned with any certain name. However, the male individual of a dolphin is called a bull, and the female individual is named a cow.

What would you call a baby South Asian river dolphin?

The babies or young ones of the South Asian River dolphins are known as calves.

What do they eat?

Dolphins eat freshwater fish and other crustaceans like prawns, shrimps, carps, catfish, and mollusks found in the river waters.

Are they poisonous?

Dolphins are generally friendly animals and do not cause any harm to human beings. They are not generally poisonous unless they bite (which is an extremely rare case); however, since they are wild animals, the unpredictability of their behavior remains as a caution to not mess up with them.

Would they make a good pet?

Dolphins may seem to be cute and friendly to humans. Unfortunately, we would not suggest keeping dolphins in a home environment.

Did you know...

The dolphins living in the Ganges have a unique feature of swimming on their sides. They have a poorly developed retina in their eyes that makes them partially blind. However, they use ultrasonic sound waves and their special technique of swimming on their sides to catch their prey. These dolphins also have an elongated snout, long flippers, and flexible neck that benefit them while swimming on their sides.

The Indian government has declared the South Asian River dolphin as their national aquatic animal, and the government of Pakistan has chosen the Indus River dolphin as their national mammal.

How many South Asian river dolphins are left?

The dolphins living in the Ganges rivers have been facing a drastic decline in their population due to environmental changes triggered by river pollution leading to habitat loss. Harmful waste products from factories and industries have been increasingly polluting the river waters. Human hunters have also contributed to their cause of being an endangered species of dolphins. Currently, the are about 3,500 individuals left in the Ganges, and only about 1,500 dolphins reside in the Indus river.

Why is the South Asian river dolphin endangered?

The mortality rate of the species has been high owing to their habitat loss due to the influence of global warming. Global warming has negatively affected the ranges and timings of their migration and breeding. Human poachers have also been equally responsible for the decline of their population. The South Asian River dolphins have been marked as an endangered species under the IUCN Conservation Red List.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! For more relatable content, check out these blue wildebeest and African wildcat pages.

You can even occupy yourself at home by coloring in one of our free printable South Asian River dolphin coloring pages.

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