The franciscana, whose scientific name is Pontoporia blainvillei, is the only remaining species of the Pontoporiidae family. The closest relative of franciscanas is the pink river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis), which lives in the rivers of the Amazon. It is part of a very ancient lineage, which originated long before most of the current species of dolphins. The franciscana has lived in our seas for about a million years and is currently on the verge of extinction due to the pressure exerted by human activities, both in marine environments and in coastal areas.
But, after all, are botos, franciscanas or dolphins the same thing? In fact, these are popular names, and the same species can be known as dolphin in one region and boto in another. The franciscana, or “toninha”, for example, is known in some places in Brazil as Boto-cachimbo (“smoking pipe boto) or Boto-amarelo(“yellow boto), while in Uruguay and Argentina, it is known as franciscana. All these designations refer to the same species. Its scientific name, Pontoporia blainvillei, remains the same in every country.
There are dozens of species of dolphin. The fact is that all of these animals are part of a group called “odontocete cetaceans”, which are aquatic mammals that spend their entire lives in the water and have teeth (unlike large whales, which are toothless).