Indus River Dolphin: History

A native of the ancient Tethys Sea?

Male Indus river dolphin, died during the rescue in Rohri canal. A wound just behind the lower jaw ... / ©: WWF-Pakistan / Uzma Khan
Male Indus river dolphin, died during the rescue in Rohri canal. A wound just behind the lower jaw is photographed, seemed like an injury that had healed slightly. "Rescue operation", 8th January 2005, Pakistan.
© WWF-Pakistan / Uzma Khan
Local folklores adds to the dolphin's mysticism. One legend has it that the dolphin was once a woman but a saint cursed her and made her into fish when she refused to give milk to the holy man.

The Indus River dolphin is a very unusual kind of cetacean. It is thought to have its origin in the ancient Tethys Sea, between the Asian continent and the Indian sub-continent, which dried up around 50 million years ago forcing the dolphin to adapt to its only remaining habitat - the rivers.

Historically the dolphins existed from the Indus estuary up into the foothills of the Himalayas near Attock in today's Pakistan.

They were also found in all major Indus tributaries, including upstream in the River Ravi in Pakistan and possibly in India. This species represents a unique genome, an irreplaceable part of the biodiversity of life on earth.

The Ganges dolphin, a relative of the Indus River dolphin, is another distinct species subspecies of river dolphins as in the Amazon River dolphin and the Yangze River dolphin.

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