La Plata Dolphin
The La Plata dolphin (sometimes called the Franciscana dolphin) is usually only found in the coastal areas off southeastern South America. It is technically a member of the river dolphin family, but is the only one to live in a saltwater environment. The La Plata dolphin can be seen in shallow coastal waters and saltwater estuaries.
The La Plata dolphin has the longest beak relative to its body size of any member of the dolphin family. In fully grown adults, the beak can represent as much as 15% of body length. They are one of the smallest dolphins, with adults only reaching 5 and a half feet in size. They are one of the rarer species in which females grow to be larger than males.
La Plata dolphins also have elongated flippers rather than pectoral fins. Female La Plata dolphins reach sexual maturity at the age of four, and after a gestation period of 10-11 months could be giving birth at the age of five. They weigh up to 110 lb (both males and females) and live for an average of 20 years in the wild.
They are less sociable than other breeds of dolphin, preferring to travel alone most of the time or in very small groups. It is very exceptional to see groups of more than 10 swimming together. They are often hard to spot unless the estuaries are very calm as they are bottom feeders. This means that they move very slowly along the bottom of the sea, hunting the species which live on the sea bed. Their diet consists mainly of octopus, squid and shrimp.
Its conservation status is ‘vulnerable’. Since its range is much more limited than other species of dolphin, direct threats to one area have much more of an impact on the total numbers of La Plata dolphins. They are also common prey for killer whales, and if the populations of orcas were to rise in the area where La Plata dolphins live, this could have a serious impact on their total numbers.
Large numbers of La Plata dolphins are regularly trapped in gillnets and die as a direct result of human intervention. As a species which is not as well known, conservationists are trying hard to raise the profile of the La Plata dolphin to be able to raise funds and awareness to help save them from being at risk of extinction.
La Plata Dolphin