In August 2021, when a research team was documenting biodiversity near the Tijamuchi River in Bolivia, they came across an animal that is often difficult to observe: the Bolivian river dolphin.
Steffen Reichle, a biologist at the Noel Kempff Mercado Museum of Natural History in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, and a member of the team, said it is extraordinary to see them with their heads exposed in the river. see. As a result, they knew something was going on and immediately started taking pictures.
But after scanning the images the team took, the researchers realized the dolphins were carrying a large python as they swam.
The researchers described what they saw in the journal Ecology last month. Although dolphins in captivity and in the wild are known to be playful, the surprising behavior of the Bolivian dolphins seems to have opened a new frontier.
Dr Reichle said Bolivian river dolphins usually swim underwater, and people usually only see their fins or tail. But a few of the six dolphins they saw kept their heads above the murky water for an unusually long time.
At one point, two male dolphins appeared to be swimming together, clutching the large snake with their mouths. Beni Anaconda, the ill-fated animal in this story, is semi-aquatic and can hold his breath for short periods of time. But since the snake was kept underwater for at least seven minutes, it was probably dead.
Dr. Reichle says: “I don’t think the snake had a good time.”
Since this interaction goes on for quite a long time, the team suspects that this is a game and not a cannibalistic behavior. Beni anaconda is native to Bolivia and apex predators. Aside from one case of cannibalism, the researchers didn’t record it being eaten by any other species.
Omar Entiauspe-Neto, one of the study’s authors and a taxonomist at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, said the dolphins were most likely playing. And since some of the dolphins nearby are young, this could be the adults teaching kids about pythons or showing them hunting techniques.
“The python can be an aphrodisiac to them,” Diana Reiss, a marine mammal scientist and cognitive psychologist at Hunter University in New York, who was not involved in the study. “It might just be something to rub in.”
The males may also have had sex before the snake appeared.
Dolphins have long been considered the top sex-addicted fish in the ocean. They have such a strong sex life that they can not only have sex with inanimate objects, or with other animals, but even “court” humans.
Part of the reason is because dolphin penises have tactile interactions. With joints, dolphin penis can be retracted, they can even be used to touch, grasp and explore everything around.
Dr Reiss added that it was possible that the male dolphins tried to insert their penises into the snake. “It gives us a different perspective on how these animals live, especially in the wild.” She added.