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Author Topic: Why do dolphins surf the bow waves of ships? Fun or food?  (Read 5500 times)

Phillip Hill

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Phillip Hill  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Dear Chris et al,

My question is why do dolphins surf the bow waves of ships? Fun or food?

The perceived wisdom is that they are very friendly and just having fun.

I wonder about that. I was on a Brittany Ferries ship out of Portsmouth to Santander a couple of years ago, and they are very big on whale watching, etc.

The ship is always full of "twithchers" with their high power binoculars. I assume they must get a season ticket deal of some sort.

Anyway, they run on-board presentations/seminars about whales, dolphins, etc. and I got talking to the guy who runs it. He was intrigued when I suggested that they might simply be hitching a ride to where they are going to a new feeding ground. They get a speed boost from the bow wave. He said he would look into it.

Phillip Hill
Bristol

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 25/01/2010 22:30:02 by _system »


 

Offline Don_1

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Why do dolphins surf the bow waves of ships? Fun or food?
« Reply #1 on: 27/01/2010 08:59:14 »
.....I was on a Brittany Ferries ship out of Portsmouth to Santander

You get a ferry to go to the bank!!!

"hitching a ride to where they are going to a new feeding ground" The chances that a ship is going in the right direction are pretty remote.

"get a speed boost from the bow wave" How fast a dolphin can swim is a question of who you believe. Research into this question has given answers of between 25 & 40 mph. But I think you will find that a dolphin can out run a ferry with great ease. They might, however, get a little push from the bow wave, thus, saving energy.

Dolphins have also been observed riding waves as a surfer would and even riding the bow wave of larger whales.

What is the ultimate porpoise purpose of this? I don't think there is one. 'Play' seems to be an important part of the dolphin's social system.
 

Offline johnttrick

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Why do dolphins surf the bow waves of ships? Fun or food?
« Reply #2 on: 31/01/2010 12:39:28 »
they are simply hitching a ride  here's a neat vid of Dolphins surfing, narrated by Sir David Attenborough. It gets really interesting at the 1:20 mark. Near the end of the video is underwater footage of some Dolphins riding a bow wave.


Looks like a cool experience.
 

Offline SeanB

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Why do dolphins surf the bow waves of ships? Fun or food?
« Reply #3 on: 04/02/2010 18:41:34 »
I watched dolphins surfing early one morning for more than an hour, right on the beach. Even the fishermen hauled out their lines ( big fine for hooking one here or disturbing them).

 

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Why do dolphins surf the bow waves of ships? Fun or food?
« Reply #3 on: 04/02/2010 18:41:34 »

 

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