Why are these dolphins having fun with an anaconda in a river?

Pictures taken in August 2021 in Bolivia show botos, also called Amazon pink dolphins, “playing” with an anaconda in a river. An attitude as surprising as it is rare according to researchers who analyzed it in a study published in April 2022 in the scientific journal Ecologyreport our colleagues from HuffPost.

“They were rather playing with the snake than trying to eat it”

Even before they noticed the snake, specialists were amazed to see these animals spending so much time out of water. “Just seeing them with their heads above the river was extraordinary,” Steffen Reichle, a biologist at the Noel Kempff Mercado Natural History Museum in Bolivia, said Monday in the columns of the New York Times.

After observing the series of photographs, the researchers noticed that the dolphins were interacting with an anaconda. “It became clear that they were rather playing with the snake than trying to eat it,” they explained.

The hypothesis of an activity with a sexual connotation

In the footage, two dolphins appear swimming in sync with the snake in their mouths. “There were also juveniles at the scene, and it appeared that the adults were showing them the snake,” the researchers added. The latter also advance the hypothesis of an activity with a sexual connotation because the males were “sexually aroused by engaging in object games with the anaconda”.

However, the snake would not a priori have had such a pleasant time. The animal indeed remained under water for a long time without moving, and specialists believe that it is most certainly deceased.

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