Fascinating Dolphin Bubble Rings

Last week I spent a few days in the Tampa Bay, Florida area before traveling north to Illinois to visit my family for the holidays. One of the attractions I visited was the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where injured dolphins are rescued, treated, and released back into their natural environment. I watched in fascination as the resident dolphins jumped from the water on command, twirled in circles with half of their sleek bodies above the water line, and even jumped completely out of the water and balanced on the trainer’s platform.

I have long been fascinated with dolphins. While we know that they are extremely intelligent, there is still much about these gentle creatures we don’t understand. One of the more fascinating behaviors they exhibit is the ability to generate dolphin bubble rings by forcing air through their blowholes, as seen in the following video:

As if by magic, the dolphin does a quick flip of its head, generating a silver, donut-shaped ring in front of its nose. The ring doesn’t rise to the surface; it stands upright in the water. The dolphin plays with the ring, nosing it around in the water, making it twirl, and even swimming through it. When the donut finally begins to deteriorate, the dolphin bites into it, either pulling a smaller donut from the larger ring or causing the ring to dissolve into a million tiny bubbles that slowly float to the surface.

We don’t know how they learn to do this or if they’re born with the ability. Somehow, I suspect that this is not the only secret the dolphins are keeping from. Perhaps one day our species will be evolved enough that the dolphins will take us into their confidence.

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