Ganges River Dolphin

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Ganges River Dolphin

The Ganges River dolphin (also known as the South Asian river dolphin) is a species of river dolphin which lives in freshwater areas in India, Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This river dolphin and the Indus river dolphin used to be classed as a single species but in 1998 it was officially decided that they are two different subspecies which have not interbred and therefore deserve their own classification. The Ganges river dolphin is particularly important in India where it has been chosen by the national government as the country’s official National Aquatic Animal.

The Ganges river dolphin has the same long, pointed beak which is a distinguishing feature for all river dolphins. Even when the mouth is closed, its teeth are still clearly visible. As with the Indus river dolphin, the teeth are long and curved when the dolphins are fist born, but as they age they are filed down to smooth flat discs. They look very similar to the Indus river dolphin, with small, stocky bodies which are brown in color and triangular lumps on their backs instead of dorsal fins. They grow to a maximum of 8 and a half feet and the males tend to be smaller on average than the females.

Like most river dolphins, they are functionally blind and only use echo-location to help them to navigate, find prey and stay away from dangerous obstacles. They have long, thin flippers in relation to their size. Ganges river dolphins eat a variety of fish and shrimp. Research has found that they mostly eat carp and catfish as these two species are in abundance in the rivers where they live.

Calves can be born all year round, although most seem to be born in December, January, March, April and May. The gestation period is 10 months long and there is no real mating season. Mating can occur at any point throughout the year. Both male and female Ganges river dolphins reach sexual maturity at 10 years of age. They travel in very small groups and are often sighted on their own. They are much less social than most species of marine dolphins.

As with all river dolphins, their limited habitat puts them in a threatened position. Their official conservation status is ‘endangered’ due to the commercial use of the rivers in which they live for transport and fishing.

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Ganges River Dolphin


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