These never-before-seen pictures of bubblegum pink Amazon river dolphins are a fascinating glimpse into the behaviour of these elusive creatures.
Unlike their playful cousin, 'Flipper', these dolphins live in the murky, sediment covered depths of the giant Amazon river 50 miles south of the city of Manaus and are in fact freshwater creatures.
Captured on film over a total of three weeks by Seattle based photographer Kevin Shafer, the dolphins distinctive pink colouring develops with age and is exaggerated by the red silty Amazonian water.
Swimming with up to six of the nearly blind, seven foot long pink dolphins, Kevin braved the parasitic, piranha-infested waters of the world's largest river in search of that perfect shot.
The Amazon river dolphin is a freshwater river dolphin endemic to the Orinoco, Amazon and Araguaia/Tocantins river systems. It has been listed as endangered due to pollution, over fishing, excessive boat trafficking and habitat loss. The brain of the river dolphin is 40 per cent larger than a human brain
Captured on film over a total of three weeks by Seattle based photographer Kevin Shafer, the dolphins distinctive pink colouring develops with age and is exaggerated by the red silty Amazonian water
'I photographed the dolphins in the Rio Negro tributary of the Amazon river, which is around 1000 miles inland upstream in the middle of the Amazon Rainforest,' said renowned photographer Kevin, 55.
'This part of the river system is known as the 'Wedding of the Waters' and is where the Rio Negro joins with the Rio Solimues and carries on as the Amazon.
'This huge river system is up to one mile wide at certain points and up to 100 feet deep.
'This enormous body of water is the perfect home for the river dolphins and I was lucky to find a community of them along the banks.'
Deciding to travel himself to photograph the dolphins, Kevin found a fishing village where the dolphins congregate because they feed off fishing scraps of the villagers.
'The visibility of the water is up to five feet away and that is considered a good day,' said Kevin.
'Other days I would be lucky to even see my hand in front if me, let alone take pictures of these great animals.'
Advised to wear a full body wet suit to prevent infection by the rivers parasites or even attack by the notorious piranha, Kevin decided to ignore the advice after a day or two.
Mystery: In a traditional Amazon River folklore, at night an Amazon river dolphin becomes a handsome young man who seduces girls, impregnates them, then returns to the river in the morning to become an Amazon river dolphin again
'I wanted freedom of movement within the water to take my pictures and the suit was quite restrictive,' said Kevin.
'I was able to enjoy the experience more without the suit.
'That involved appreciating that the river dolphins were in fact almost blind and navigate almost entirely by sonar.
'That is why they bob and weave their heads so much, sending out signals to direct their movements.'
Believed to have lived in the Amazon for tens of thousands of years, the river dolphins have followed a different evolutionary path.
'The water is so dense with silt that has flowed down from the Andes that they evolved to not use their eyes.
'This also cause them to develop their distinctive pink skin, which begins as quite greyish when they are young, but develops over the years to the stark bubblegum pink colour that you can see.'
The Amazon river dolphin has about 100 peg-like front teeth for catching prey and it mainly eats crustaceans, crabs, small turtles, catfish, piranhas, and other fish
Less friendly than their famous bottlenose cousins, the river dolphins were considered gods in the rain forest because of their elusive nature.
'The Chinese River Dolphin was declared extinct two years ago and it is safe to say that ecologist designate the population numbers of the Amazon River Dolphin as "unknown".
'They are unique creatures who actually count piranhas as part of their diet.
'Although I have seen a few with little nibs taken out of their flippers and fins, which the locals assure me are the work of piranhas getting their own back.'
Scientists do not exactly know why these dolphins are pink. However, they believe that the pink coloration could be credited in part to the dolphin's diet of crabs and shell fish, which have a red pigment in their muscle tissues, and to the silt-filled river water which is virtually impenetrable to sunlight.
As time progresses, the pigment gets built in the skin of the dolphin and imparts pink coloration to the skin.
The presence of a large number of blood capillaries near the surface of the dolphin's skin can also be another reason. This is why when dolphins get excited they become all pink, just as if they were blushing.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1268008/From-depths-Amazon-river--amazing-images-giant-bubblegum-pink-dolphins.html#ixzz0lxFfc5g7