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05th May 2022

Footage of two male dolphins getting ‘sexually aroused’ with anaconda in mouths confuses researchers


The incident left researchers scratching their heads

Researchers working in Bolivia managed to capture a rare and strange encounter between river dolphins and Beni anacondas that ultimately left them a little confused.

A couple of Bolivian river dolphins were spotted swimming in the country’s Tijamuchi River with what appeared to be a Beni anaconda in their mouths – a creature that is typically considered an apex predator within the region.

While the true motive of the encounter is still being deciphered, some ideas suggest it could have sexual links.

As reported in a recent study which was published in the Ecology journal and later covered in Insider, the incident took place back in August 2021 with researchers capturing some photos of the unusual event to include within their write up.


Believed to be the first reported encounter between river dolphins and this particular type of anaconda, the researchers quickly tried to decipher what it actually meant whilst going over their photographs after the fact.

For starters, the dolphins appeared to be carrying the snake in an almost playful manner – which potentially ruled out any thoughts that the act was predatory or they were trying to eat it.

Secondly, whilst looking back at the event – which lasted roughly seven minutes – researchers saw that the dolphins had erect penises which reinforced the idea that this was indeed a playful moment.

While many questions remain, those behind the study began pondering potential reasons for this unusual run in. With the snake mostly submerged throughout, it is believed that the animal was dead and researches suggested that the adult male dolphins could have been trying to teach nearby juveniles about the Beni anaconda.

Another theory put forward purported that the dolphins were engaging in an act of courtship which involved carrying the snake. According to the experts, river dolphins have been known to carry objects in an attempt to wow the opposite sex – so this could potentially add up.

However others suggested more straight-forward reasoning for the act. When quizzed on the moment by The New York Times, Hunter College’s marine mammal scientist Diana Reiss simply said: “It could have been something to rub on.”

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