Platanistidae - New Bedford Whaling Museum

Platanistidae (River Dolphin)


Cetacean Families

  • Platanistidae
  • Iniidae
  • Lipotidae
  • Pontoporiidae

Species within these four families

  • Ganges River Dolphin (Platanista gangetica)
  • Indus River Dolphin (Platanista minor)
  • Boto (Inia geoffrensis)
  • Baiji (Lipotes vexillifer), possibly extinct
  • Franciscana(Pontoporia blainvillei)

Defining Characteristics

  • Have long slender beak, above which rises a sharply differentiated, bulging forehead
  • Their eyes are small
  • They have distinct necks; flippers are broad and either rounded or sharply curved
  • Colors tend to be muted grays, pinks, and browns usually darker above and paler below
  • 3-9 feet (0.9 – 2.8m) in length. The adult males get to the size of 8.2 feet (2.5 m) females are rarely found to be longer than 7 feet (2.15 m)
  • Feed by using echolocation; feed on fish and invertebrates
  • They have small pointed teeth
  • The river dolphins have no markings

The Yangtze River Dolphin (Baiji), Lipotes vexillifer, declared extinct in 2006.

Interesting facts

  • Little known is about their social behavior
  • They often live in water less than 7 feet (2 m)
  • They communicate by sound, whistle, by breaching, body posturing and jaw popping
  • Their length of pregnancy is 8-11 months
  • The interval between births is 1 year

Habitat range

  • They live in freshwater rivers. Prefer living in water 10-30 feet (3.1-9.1 m) deep, but are able to live in water as shallow as 3 feet (0.9 m).

Threats to survival

  • Pollution
  • Hunting
  • Fishing
  • Construction of dams

Life expectancy

  • Can be calculated from the Annual Survival Rate, life expectancy differs per region.

River Dolphin

Cited Resources

Researched and written by Erica Andrade, NBWM Apprentice, March 2012

Last modified: August 18, 2016