Why do spinner dolphins spin?

Why do spinner dolphins spin?

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Spinner dolphins have a behavior where they jump out of the water and spin a bunch of times in the air. Wikipedia's article on this just states

These spins may serve several functions

and doesn't anything. Are there any known reasons for their extreme spinning behavior?

No single factor is considered to be the reason for the aerial spinning behavior (Hester et al., 1963; Norris and Dohl, 1980; Norris et al., 1994). The various factors include leadership or dominance, alertness, acoustic communication, courtship display, defining positions of members in the school, and dislodging ectoparasites. The most notable ectoparasites are remoras and whalesuckers (order Perciformes, family Echeneidae)… Hester et al. (1963) suggested that the aerial maneuvers executed by spinner dolphins are involved in the removal of remoras… While aerial spinning maneuvers may not have developed specifically to remove ectoparasites like remoras, dynamically it is plausible that this proves to be an added benefit.

--Dynamics of the aerial maneuvers of spinner dolphins

Spinner dolphin - Stenella longirostris

Although most commonly found in offshore waters, some spinner dolphin populations also use nearshore areas. Here they are a great favourite of dolphin watching tours, because of their impressive acrobatics, which include leaps and body slaps, as well as their unique penchant for spinning. They are able to spin on their lateral axis – making up to 7 full rotations in one leap. There are four recognized subspecies of spinner dolphins throughout the species’ tropical range: Gray’s spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris longirostris) which is the most common form distributed throughout the range the Eastern spinner dolphin (S.l. orientalis) which occurs in the Eastern Tropical Pacific off the coasts of South and Central America the central American spinner dolphin (S.l. centroamericana), found only in a narrow strip of habitat along the west coast of central America and the Dwarf spinner dolphin (S.l. roseiventris) which is found only in southeast Asia and northern Australia 1,2 . There is also a large population of whitebelly spinner dolphins, which are a hybrid form S. l. longirostris X S. l. orientalis.

Fun Facts About Spinner Dolphins

1. Spinner dolphins grow up to 7 feet (2.1 m) long and weigh up to 170 pounds (77 kg).

2. Spinner dolphins can live for 20 years. 1

3. Spinner dolphins are known for spinning their bodies in the air, making as many as seven rotations at a time.

4. Researchers suggest that spinner dolphins spin for multiple reasons: to shake off remoras and parasites to indicate location and direction to display dominance for courtship purposes and possibly just because the activity is fun for the dolphins.

5. Spinner dolphins can reach up to 9.8 feet (3 m) above water. 2

How You Can Help

Be responsible when viewing marine life in the wild.

Observe all dolphins and porpoises from a safe distance of at least 50 yards and limit your time spent observing to 30 minutes or less.

Report a sick, injured, entangled, stranded, or dead animal to make sure professional responders and scientists know about it and can take appropriate action. Numerous organizations around the country are trained and ready to respond. Never approach or try to save an injured or entangled animal yourself—it can be dangerous to both the animal and you.

Call the NOAA Fisheries Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964 to report a federal marine resource violation. This hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for anyone in the United States.

You may also contact your closest NOAA Office of Law Enforcement field during regular business hours.

In the eastern tropical Pacific, spinner dolphins frequently swim together with schools of yellowfin tuna. Fishermen look for dolphin pods, knowing they’ll likely be with the tuna they want, and herd them with speedboats into a tight mass before deploying a large net over the pod. The dolphins are ensnared along with the tuna.

When the purse seine fishery first began around 1960, dolphins (not just spinners) trapped as bycatch were killed—a number estimated at around six million. Thanks to protection efforts, the dolphins today are usually released alive from the nets and the death rate is fairly low.

Marine Debris

Marine debris is a growing concern within the marine environment, as it poses multiple threats to the marine ecosystem. For instance, dolphins may ingest (either directly or through prey items) or become entangled in marine debris. These interactions may cause:

  • Drowning
  • Debilitation
  • Limited predator avoidance
  • Internal or external wounds
  • Skin lesions or sores
  • Blockage of the digestive tract, resulting in starvation that often leads to death
  • Reductions in quality of life and/or reproductive capacity
  • Impairment of feeding capacity
  • Introduction and/or concentration of damaging or toxic compounds to the animal.

The severity of the effects of debris interactions on dolphin populations remains unclear because many deaths likely occur undetected at sea.

We do not have sufficient information to determine the severity of the threat of direct ingestion of large debris on Hawaiian spinner dolphins.Some data indicates that spinner dolphin prey species are consuming very small plastics. In 2010, researchers analyzed mesopelagic fish in the North Pacific Central Gyre and found that 35 percent of the fish—many of which were lantern fishes (spinner dolphins’ main prey)—had ingested plastic. Larger fish generally had more pieces of plastic in their guts than smaller fish. We are particularly concerned about the ability for plastic debris to absorb organic pollutants that may be toxic to marine organisms. Scientists have also found high levels of butyltin and organochlorine (chemical compounds found in some plastics) in migrating lantern fish species in the Western North Pacific, which may indicate a cause for concern for predators, such as spinner dolphins.

Meet the Faces of this story

Untamed Science is dedicated to explaining science with unique adventures stories. Learn more about the crew members that helped shoot this piece.

Dan Bertalan: Dan is one of the film making scientists with Untamed Science. Besides the work he does behind the camera, he has made award winning documentaries on North American Bears. These documentaries will be a key feature in upcoming Untamed Science ecofacts and podcasts. Dan leads one of the Untamed Science base stations in Madison Wisconsin. Watch a short ecofact where Dan explains elk behavior or …read more about Dan

Suze Roots:“Suze” as we call her, is one of our on-camera hosts. She is currently studying tropical woody vines (lianas) through the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee in the Republic ofPanama. Another part of Suze’s job is to be one of our writers, working to make the content scientifically accurate and fun for both students and teachers to watch. Suze is the star of several of the new BioAdvenures Videos … more on Suze

Spinner Dolphin Behavior

As the name indicates, spinning is a big part of what their behaviors include. The Spinner Dolphin is also famous for riding bow waves which are created in the water when boats go by. They often live in larger pods with the numbers from 100 to 1,000 in them. There are several subgroups though in each pod that add to the overall complexities of their hierarchy. There is plenty of dominance in place with core members.

Spinner Dolphins are very social and they interact often within their pods. They also interact with other types of dolphins. They use echolocation often and thy are also known to touch each other more often than other dolphin species. They create bonds that are very intense with their pods. If you would like to see them leaping, jumping, and spinning, such activity is most likely to occur at night.

The day time is often for them to rest. They may do so at the various inlets they can find. They come back to those same locations daily as long as they feel safe there. As the sun starts to go down though they become very active. They are going to migrate as needed in order to be in warm waters and to find enough food.

Q&A: Why Do Spinner Dolphins Spin? The Answer is Very Inspirational.

You’ve probably seen this happen in nature. This dolphin jumps out of the water and spins a bunch of times in the air before crashing back into the sea. It seems crazy. It doesn’t look like it helps them catch fish, or anything. But they do it all the time. The big question is why?

If you look on the internet, you’ll find a bunch of scientific mumbo-jumbo about them expressing themselves, or about chasing off parasites that are trying to suck their blood. Or whatever!

But here’s the real answer: They do it BECAUSE THEY CAN!

It’s a pretty straightforward, Occam’s Razor scenario. We’ve checked it out, and we have the facts. Plain and simple. Nature gave them a gift, and they use that gift. That’s all you need to know!

The question for you is: What gifts were you given that you are squandering?

Think about this now. These gifts could be either the gifts you were given by being a member of the human species, or they can be the gifts that were given to you as an unique and special individual within the species.

Either way, I’m sure there’s something!

The human body is an amazing thing. The human mind perhaps even more so. Put it all together and Blam! You have a recipe for greatness!

What do you figure your gift is?

Is it that you can run for hundreds of miles to tire out your prey? (or win?) Is it that you can write poems that make people cry or laugh? (or screenplays?) Is it that you can tell stories at a dinner party, hit a tennis ball really hard, enjoy sex, do math problems? Maybe you give emotionally challenging powerpoint presentations? Maybe you know how to draw weird pictures and post them on the internet for literally billions of people to Ooh and Aah over? I DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER. ONLY YOU KNOW THE ANSWER!

(President Trump can have affairs with Playmates of the Year! SO HE DOES! You probably can’t do that!)

Maybe you have many gifts. Maybe you can do it all!

The point is that, if you can, you should. If you aren’t, why not? Isn’t it your moral obligation?

There is no point holding it back! There is no point doing boring stuff only!

On the flip side, you also have to ask yourself whether your gifts are immoral? Then you have a bit more to think about.

Like what if you’re really great at stealing other people’s things? Or caning? Or stoning to death? Or building nuclear bombs? Or handcrafting crystal meth in a motor-home? Or enforcing tax laws? Or inventing AI robots that will inevitably take over the planet and KILL US ALL?!

Then maybe you should think about doing something else. Or, in these cases, maybe boring stuff is better. (JUST WATCH TV AND SEND TEXTS! IT’S ALL GOOD!)

The Clymene dolphin was first formally described by John Edward Gray in 1846, although, unusually, he did not assign it its current name until four years later, in 1850. [4] From then on, until a reassessment in 1981, the Clymene dolphin was regarded as a subspecies of the spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris). [5] In 1981, Perrin et al. asserted the Clymene's existence as separate species. [6] Until this time, because Clymenes are relatively remote and were regarded as very similar to the more accessible spinners, they were never heavily studied. Anatomical and behavioral traits suggested that this species is a hybrid of the spinner dolphin and striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba), and DNA testing has shown that it is indeed a hybrid species. [7] [8]

The common and scientific names are probably derived from the Greek oceanid Clymene, although it has also been argued that it may instead come from the Greek word for "notorious". [4]

The Clymene dolphin looks very similar to the spinner dolphin. At close quarters, it is possible to observe that the beak of the Clymene is slightly shorter than that of its relative. The dorsal fin is also less erect and triangular. [4]

The basic color of the Clymene dolphin is "cetacean neapolitan" - it occurs in three shaded layers — the underside being white. Next, a strip of light grey runs from just above the beak, round either side of the eye back to the tail stock, where the band thickens. The top layer, from the forehead, along the back to the dorsal fin, and down to the top of the tail stock, is a dark grey. The beak, lips, and flippers are also dark grey in color. [6] Clymene dolphins grow to about 2 m (6.6 ft) in length [9] and 75 to 80 kg (165 to 176 lb) in weight. [10]

Clymene dolphins spend most of their lives in waters over 100 m (330 ft) in depth, but occasionally move into shallower, coastal regions. [11] They feed on squid and small schooling fish, [6] [12] hunting either at night, or in mesopelagic waters where there is only limited light. Predators include cookie-cutter sharks, as evidenced by bite marks seen on a number of animals. [13]

Clymenes are fairly active dolphins. They do spin longitudinally when jumping clear of the water, but not with as much regularity and complexity as the spinner dolphin. They will also approach boats and ride bow waves. [14] Group sizes vary from just four up to around 150 individuals, [4] although about forty is typical. [14] Many of these groups appear to be single-sex, and also to be segregated by the approximate age of the individuals. [4] [13] Clymene dolphins are also highly vocal, making short whistles in a range of 6–19 kHz. [4]

No figures are available for the size of animals at birth. Gestation, lactation, and maturation periods are all unknown, but are unlikely to vary greatly from others in the genus Stenella. [15] Their longevity is also unknown, although at least one sixteen-year-old individual has been reported from a stranding. [13]

The Clymene dolphin is endemic to the Atlantic Ocean. Its full range is still poorly understood, particularly at its southern end. The species certainly prefers temperate and tropical waters. The northern end of the range runs roughly from New Jersey east-southeast to southern Morocco. The southern tip runs from somewhere around Angola to Rio de Janeiro. They appear to prefer deep water. Numerous sightings have been recorded in the Gulf of Mexico. The species has not been sighted, however, in the Mediterranean Sea. [2]

The total population is unknown. The only population estimate available is for the north part of the Gulf of Mexico, where a count of 6,500 individuals was reported. However, it is suspected that there are three well-define populations in the Atlantic Ocean, located in the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico. [16] As of more recent research, it is presumed that individuals from the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico move between these two populations, while the North Atlantic population seems to be more isolated. The species may naturally be rare in comparison with others in the genus Stenella. [2]

Some individuals have been killed from directed fisheries in the Caribbean and others may have been caught in nets off West Africa. [2]

The West African population of the Clymene dolphin is listed on Appendix II [17] of the convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), since it has an unfavourable conservation status or would benefit significantly from international co-operation organized by tailored agreements.

The Clymene dolphin is covered by the Memorandum of Understanding Concerning the Conservation of the Manatee and Small Cetaceans of Western Africa and Macaronesia. [18] [19]

Watch the video: Spinner Dolphins (May 2022).


  1. Kolton

    And really creative ... super!

  2. Moritz

    Takes a bad turn.

  3. JoJobar

    I am final, I am sorry, it not a right answer. Who else, what can prompt?

  4. Malajind

    I don't know what is so new and interesting here, no doubt useful, but still secondary ...

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