Birds aren’t the only animals capable of aerial acrobatics. Spinner dolphins can leap up to 3 metres/9.8 feet out of the water and complete up to seven rotations. They can also do above-water somersaults.
Why do spinner dolphins spin?
Scientists aren’t sure why spinner dolphins spin. Here are some popular theories:
- To remove parasites and/or remoras
- To communicate with other dolphins
- For courtship
- To display dominance
- Just for fun
In addition to corkscrews and somersaults, spinner dolphins perform other common cetacean behaviours such as: head slaps, tail slaps, and spyhops. Spinner dolphins can jump out of the water up to seven times in a row (sounds exhausting).
These athletic marine mammals are smaller than most other dolphins. Full-grown adults are about the same size as a human, 1.8-2 metres/6-7 feet long and they weigh about 59-77kg/130-170 lbs.
Where to find spinner dolphins
If you’d like to see dolphins perform their topside Cirque du Soleil, set a course for Hawai’i, Costa Rica, or the Gulf of Thailand. You also have a good chance of seeing spinner dolphins in the Indian Ocean and Tropical Eastern Pacific.
There are four different types of spinner dolphins, but Gray’s Spinner dolphins (named for John Grey, the scientist who discovered them) are the most common. Other spinner dolphin sub-species include:
- Eastern spinner dolphin – found in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean
- Central American spinner dolphin – found along the west coast of Central America
- Dwarf spinner dolphin – found in the Gulf of Thailand, southeast Asia up to northern Australia
Spinner dolphin pods can be massive – a thousand or more individuals. They typically rest during the day and hunt for fish at night. Just like other cetaceans, spinner dolphins use echolocation to find food. Their favorite foods include: small fish, squid and shrimp.
Are spinner dolphins endangered?
Tuna fishing killed tens of thousands of Eastern spinner dolphins in the latter half of the 20th century. Fishermen using seine nets and trapped dolphins and tuna alike. This practice is now illegal in most countries.
Because spinner dolphins are so wide-ranging, their overall conservation status is unknown. That said, it’s always a good idea to make an informed decision at the seafood counter.