If you never knew that dolphins could live in the Amazon, you’re not alone. As it turns out, they’re actually quite special animals, and they’re even the subject of a few legends.

Many of us probably went through a dolphin-obsessed phase when we were younger, sporting airbrushed dolphin t-shirts after a beach vacation or a colorful Lisa Frank poster in our bedrooms. Never in our wildest dreams, though, did we think a dolphin could actually be pink—or live in the Amazon River, for that matter.

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Shutterstock

They’re called various names—boto, Boto-Cor-de-rosa, or just pink river dolphins—and they are real and they’ll definitely prevent you from seeing dolphins the same way ever again.

This Isn’t Your Ordinary Animal

Aside from the fact that they’re shaped a little bit differently than the more common bottlenose dolphin we’re used to seeing, these pink river dolphins are most well-known for their color. Though they can be gray, mostly when they’re younger, it’s said that their pink color comes from the abundance of red mud that surrounds the waterways in which they live.

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National Geographic Magazine

However, others have also theorized that they’re pink because they’re animals that fight a lot, constantly generating more pink scar tissue after their battles.

Unlike normal dolphins, who typically have no problems swimming up to humans or boats, the pink river dolphins tend to be more mysterious and not as interactive. Researchers who have worked on determining the number of these animals in the river have found it troubling because they don’t make themselves known easily. One researcher, Alves dos Santos, said that usually, “they just put the tip of their head out of the water.”

They Can Be Playful, Though

During his time studying the dolphins, dos Santos said that some of them do make it their mission to interact with humans. In a Brazilian town called Mocajuba, he said he often saw the dolphins swim closer to shore to play with kids who were taking a break from helping their families at the local market.

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Donna Cymek/Flickr Commons

During their interactions, the dolphins were incredibly playful and not the slightest bit aggressive. “If they wanted to they could rip those children apart because they are pretty big and they have pretty strong jaws,” dos Santos said.

However, The Local Adults Aren’t Always Fond of Them

In general, local fisherman aren’t fans of the boto population because they’re competition when it comes to catching fish. Most people, though, are wary of the dolphins because of the heavy lore that surrounds them.

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iStock

A lot of people even consider their presence to be bad luck and even think of the dolphins as evil creatures. “It is believed that these myths kept local people from intentionally killing them and have actually played a role in the stability of the Amazon river dolphin population,” said Meg Symington of the World Wildlife Foundation. So, what are the legends that surround these mysterious pink creatures?

They Turn Into Men At Night

As the story goes, the boto undergo quite the transformation when the sun goes down, turning into handsome men who visit nearby villages, sometimes disguised as the loved ones of the villagers. Dressed in all white, their goal is to run into local women and impregnate them, only to turn into dolphins at the end of the night and swim away.

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Noriko Funasaka /Taiji Whale Museum

Throughout the years, many unexpected pregnancies have been blamed on the dolphins because of this legend.

Want to See A Manatee? Find A Dolphin First

Believe it or not, there are also manatees that live in the Amazon River, though they’re rarely seen.

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iStock

Perhaps that’s because people don’t know how to find them. The myth is that the river dolphin is essentially the guardian of the manatees, so you won’t be able to find one without a dolphin. If you’re able to make peace with it, it will grant you access to see one of the rare river manatees.

Swim Alone and You Might Get Whisked Away To An Amazonian Atlantis

Take a quick dip in the waters of the Amazon River by yourself and you could find yourself being taken to an underwater city named Encante. The legend doesn’t specify if any human who goes there can return, but it assumes anyone who does won’t want to.

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iStock

Most people might be quick to think this is a tale made up by paranoid parents to keep their children out of the river, and maybe they’re right. Still, though, it’d be a pretty magical adventure to go on—you just have to be willing to get dragged underwater by a gigantic pink dolphin. No big deal, right?

Bad Luck Comes to Those Who Kill A Boto

Whether it’s on purpose or an accident, it’s said to be bad luck if a pink river dolphin dies by your hand. Even worse luck comes to those who’d choose to eat one, but that doesn’t really seem to be a common practice.

Nightmares Come to Those Who Look In the Botos’ Eyes

Some might be sweet to humans, but the dreams you’ll have after looking in the eyes of a boto are said to be anything but.

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Amos Photography

Oh, did we also mention that these horrific nightmares will apparently stay with you for the rest of your life?