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How Dolphins Swim

"It is the dolphin's birthright to swim in a straight line in the ocean as far as it's heart desires". -Ric O'Barry

The bottlenose dolphin's skin is completely smooth allowing the dolphin to move easily through the water, and also reduce heat loss. Their bodies are very streamlined so they may swin at high speeds through the water. Their pectoral flippers are used to steer them through the water. Dolphin "friends" may swim along face to face touching fiippers. Dolphins that appear to be closely bonded may swim in synchrony, twisting, turning, and swimming in perfect harmony together.

The dolphin's fast cruising speed, a travelling speed they can maintain for quite a while, is about 6 to 7 knots. When they move faster, they will start jumping clear of the water (porpoising). They are actually saving energy by jumping. It is possible that dolphins can reach speeds of over 15 knots during very short bursts (like in preparation for a high jump), but they can't maintain that speed.

Dolphins are capable of diving more than 1,000 feet below sea level and able to leap to great heights. They may leap to avoid predators or to show how powerful they are to females at mating time. Noisy splashing jumps may also be used to herd fish. Dolphins can stay submerged for up to 15 minutes.

Generally dolphins do not need to dive very deep to catch food. Most dolphins regularly dive to depths of 10 to 150 ft. It is possible for a dive to last eight to ten minutes. All marine mammals have special physiological adaptations used during a dive. These adaptations enable a dolphin to conserve oxygen while it is under water, have a slower heartbeat, blood is shunted away from tissues tolerant of low oxygen levels toward the heart, lungs, and brain, where oxygen is needed.
(Dolphins--The Oracles of the Sea)


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