Science News

Reseachers Discover How Baby Dolphins Keep Up

Sun, 2nd Nov 2003

Young dolphins swim alongside their mothers in the open sea for up to 3 years, but it has always been a mystery how they manage to keep up. It turns out that the young calves use much the same trick that cyclists use on the Tour de France – they exploit their mother’s slipstream to help pull them along. Israeli aerospace engineer Daniel Weihs studied dolphins at the US National Marine Fishery and found that young dolphins swim about 30 centimetres away from their mothers body. As the larger dolphin swims she pushes a wave of water out of the way around her which also flows around the calf reducing the amount of work it has to do by 65%. The pressure difference created as the water is deflected around the mother and calf also pushes the 2 animals tightly together. It’s in fact so strong that some female dolphins have been known to poach other mothers calves by swimming past rapidly and sucking the babies towards themselves !

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