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New dolphin species: First river dolphin described since 1918, 24 teeth per jaw

A new dolphin species has recently been discovered in Brazil, proving once again that Mother Nature always has something new to offer researchers. Experts studying wildlife in Brazil published their study on these intelligent animals this week in PLOS ONE, noting that this marine mammal species marks the first dolphins described since 1918. In addition to a number of interesting qualities, the Huffington Post reports this Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014, that these adept swimmers only possess 24 teeth per jaw, rather than the normal 25 to 29 teeth.

River dolphin in the water
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The new dolphin species was first found in the Araguaia River basin. Their scientific name has already been recorded by the researchers in PLOS ONE as Inia araguaiaensis. The first new species closely described since 1918, this species is thought to have separated from other river dolphins in the Amazon well over 2 million years ago. The reason for this gradual shift? A change in landscape is thought to have split these animals from their swimming brethren. Unlike most Brazilian river dolphins, this friendly new group has just 24 teeth on each jaw, just a few shy of others.

"It was something that was very unexpected, it is an area where people see them all the time, they are a large mammal, the thing is nobody really looked. It is very exciting," lead author Dr. Tomas Hrbek of the Federal University of Amazonas said, according to BBC News.

Despite such an exciting discovery, the experts have also confirmed that this new dolphin species is already under serious threat of extinction. Due to a limiting of natural habitats and massive human disturbances, Hrbek noted that less than 1,000 of these animals remain, and their outlook isn’t a bright one.

"Its future is pretty bleak," Hrbek told a source, the New Scientist. "The Araguaia-Tocantins basin suffers huge human disturbance and there are probably less than 1,000 I. araguaiaensis in existence."

In light of this scary prospect and already small numbers remaining in the river basin, the research team is already strongly encouraging the International Union for the Conservation of Nature to quickly classify the new dolphin species as a “vulnerable” group.

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