Are These Dolphins Playing With An Anaconda?

dolphins and anaconda
Photo: Entiauspe-Neto et al., Ecology, 2022

In all the animal interactions we’ve seen, playtime between a dolphin and an anaconda might just be the weirdest. But that’s just what researchers found on a recent trip to Bolivia.

The group originally embarked on their project near the Tijamuchi River with the goal of documenting biodiversity. Their interest was piqued when they spotted the elusive Bolivian river dolphin. This species is rarely documented due to the river’s murky nature as well as the dolphin’s tendency to spend much of its time underwater.

But on this lucky day when the dolphins lifted their heads above the water, researchers had their cameras ready. After catching their first few shots, they noticed something strange: a group of the dolphins seemed to be holding a snake in their mouths. And this wasn’t just any snake. Upon further inspection, the snake was identified as a Beni anaconda.

While dolphins are known to be playful creatures, including interacting with animals of other species, it’s not exactly clear what they were doing with the snake.

Photo: Joachim S. Müller

“It became clear that they rather were playing with the snake than trying to eat it,” researchers described the strange scene in the journal Ecology.

Another explanation offered by researchers was the dolphins have have been taking this opportunity to teach others about the snake or demonstrating hunting strategies. There were several juveile dolphins in the area that the adults may have been teaching and passing their wisdom onto.

The weirdest of the explanations involves the possibility of a mating ritual. In some cases, dolphins are known to carry objects while reproducing, and researchers noted that some of the adult males appeared to be sexually aroused in the photographs taken.

Whatever the case or explanation, this is a truly weird, wonderful, and rare scene we were able to witness.


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