Why Do Dolphins Jump Out Of The Water?


On a recent dolphin watching trip, I noticed several dolphins leaping out of the water. It seemed to me that some of these were doing it purely for the crowds, interacting with us, and increasing their jumps when people cheered. 

Dolphins jump out of the water for fun, to increase visibility, to remove parasites, and to improve navigation.

If you want to find out some of the other reasons that dolphins leap out of the water, I have a few more below.

A dolphin is a marine mammal, with almost forty species. Dolphins are warm-blooded, marine mammals that can be found worldwide in oceans and also in shallow waters. Dolphins belong to the cetacean group, which includes humpback whales. Humpback whales can leap out of the water, a trait that dolphins can also do.

A dolphin often jumps out of the water, and this behavior may be called breaching, much like a humpback whale would. 

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How Do Dolphins Jump Out of the Water?

Dolphins jump out of the water, and for them to be able to do this, they need to be swimming at a swift pace. They push themselves and up through the surface of the water at high velocity. Dolphins get to the speed they require by swimming down below the surface and then swimming upwards from a distance.  

After reaching the surface, they can break through, leaping through the air. Dolphins are mammals, and they breathe with their lungs as we do. Dolphins do not have gills like fish.

Dolphins need to breathe oxygen from the air but also remain in the water. Jumping out of the water, allows the dolphin to remain wet, while also taking in oxygen.

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Why Do Dolphins Jump Out Of The Water?

Dolphins are famous for jumping out of the water, and most people will know that they have this behavior.  

 In the past, many scientists have debated over the reason why the dolphins jump out of the water. Some scientific studies have been made, and studies throw light on the behavior of why whales leave the water, but there is no conclusive evidence as to why dolphins jump out of the water.  

Different theories have been about this question, and some possible justifications have been made, but the answer seems to be a combination of many reasons depending upon the circumstances and also the species. Here we explain some of the reasons.

Navigation

Dolphins jump out of water because so that they can use the shape of the coastline for navigation. They can also look for nearby feeding birds indicating where to find fish. Dolphins also jump out of the water to look for the position of other members of the pod, and other creatures in the sea. 

Parasites

Some dolphins may feel irritated by parasites. By jumping out of the water, they may be able to get rid of these parasites. Dolphins can jump through the surface, effectively scratching their bodies against the surface of the water.

Dolphins can be inhabitants of lakes, rivers, and seawater, and there are many parasites that can attach to these dolphins. Being warm-blooded, they can attract more parasites than fish or sharks. 

Communication

Another reason that they jump is a sign of non-verbal communication. Dolphins can communicate for hunting purposes over long distances. Dolphins usually communicate through a series of whistles and chirps.

Jumping may be a way of non-verbal communication to warn against the presence of specific predators like killer whales or large sharks. 

Dolphins are very intelligent mammals and use their intelligence to communicate with each other. Dolphins use many means of communication. Breaching and jumping are some of the ways of communication used by dolphins.

According to researchers, dolphins jump out of the water to show leadership. It is believed that an alpha dolphin from one group will communicate with the alpha from another group by jumping through the air.

White beaked dolphin
White beaked dolphin

Dolphins use a jump to communicate with one another. When dolphins jump, they drive themselves up, out of the water. Their body position remains horizontal at the time of impact, which emits a huge sound underwater.

Sound travels faster underwater, and this is the reason why jumping into the air is a sign of communication to other dolphins.

Jumping may also be used to locate other dolphins. It may be used as a way to signal to a young dolphin to come back to her mother if it has swum further away then it should.

Saving Energy

Dolphins jump out of the water to save energy. Air is 784 times less dense than water. There is a need for some energy to be used to jump, but the distance traveled through the air, still uses less energy by the dolphin than swimming.

Cleaning

It has been observed that many land animals use water for cleaning purposes, but dolphins show different behavior. Aquatic animals use the air for cleaning, and the dolphin will do the same.  

Dolphins try to remove the presence of barnacles and debris from their skin. They also clean by slapping their fins and rolling in the water. Dolphins will jump out of the water into the air to use the air to clean their body. 

Visibility

 Dolphins can see better in the air, rather than in the water. Dolphins will jump out of the water to see clearly and to watch the surface of the oceans. They are in search of fish and other food sources in the seawater. Dolphins can also look for threats such as sharks from above the water.  

Dolphins may also be in search of other nearby dolphins and their young ones. They jump to search for them above the surface of the water. 

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Fun

Dolphins are playful and intelligent mammals and jump for fun. It has been observed that they are playful animals, and they like to swim with boats for enjoyment. Dolphins have been trained in various zoos and aquariums, and they amuse the people by jumping out of the water. 

They can perform tricks such as jumping, flipping, balancing, and leaping. Due to the streamlined features of their body, they can reach fast speeds and jump high.

There is a need for increased energy to propel dolphins out of the water, and so we can see that jumping next to boats, can be seen as a way of amusing the onlookers.

Food

Dolphins have an outstanding sense of hearing which they use to locate nearby food. To get to nearby food, dolphins try to jump high in the air to increase the chances of eating the food in their surroundings. By jumping out of the water, they increase their chance of getting more food for them and their young.

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Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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