[caption id="attachment_78332" align="aligncenter" width="623"] The proposed new species of river dolphin, the Araguaian boto (Inia araguaiaensis).[/caption]
A group of Brazilian scientists headed up by Tomas Hrbek believe that they have discovered a new species of river dolphin. This discovery was made in central Brazil in the basin of the Araguaia River. Since the new river dolphin was first spotted in the Araguaian Basin, the scientists want to name the new species the Araguaian boto.
The discovery of the Inia araguaiaensis was officially announced earlier this week in a study posted online by the Plos One scientific journal.
The study's lead author, biologist Tomas Hrbek, of the Federal University of Amazonas in the city of Manaus, said the new species is the third ever found in the Amazon region.
"It was an unexpected discovery that shows just how incipient our knowledge is of the region's biodiversity," Hrbek said by telephone.
"River dolphins are among the rarest and most endangered of all vertebrates, so discovering a new species is something that is very rare and exciting." He said: "people always saw them in the river but no one ever took a close up look at them."
In order to provide evidence that this new species of river dolphin is truly a new river dolphin species and not just a variation of an existing river dolphin species, the scientists did extensive DNA testing.
According to the DNA samples, the Brazilian scientists now believe that the Araguaian boto became a separate species of river dolphin as long ago as two million years. In addition to the DNA differences between the Araguaian boto and the other species, the Araguaian boto has some obvious physical differences as well. The new species' head is shaped differently with a slight difference in the arrangement of the teeth.
Like all river dolphins, this new species is extremely rare. Of the four known river dolphin species, three of them are threatened with extinction.
The next step in having this new species fully certified belongs to the Society of Marine Mammology. They will look at all the data collected and make an official ruling shortly.
[caption id="attachment_78352" align="aligncenter" width="620"] In this Nov. 2005 photo released by Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas da Amazonia (INPA), an Amazon river dolphin swims in the Airao River in Amazonas state, Brazil. (AP / Sefora Antela Violante, INPA)[/caption]
First New Species of River Dolphin Discovered in a Century