How do dolphins swim?
Dolphins have evolved and adapted to become as streamlined as possible. They have very little hair to create friction and their skin is extremely smooth to create as little resistance in the water as possible. It’s all about aerodynamics. They have no external appendages to restrict movement or to disrupt the flow of water over their bodies. They do not have ears which stick out, their faces taper to a point in order to part the water in all directions to flow smoothly in round the dolphin itself. But all of these things only help the dolphin to swim faster, they don’t propel it forward in the first place.
Dolphins have incredibly strong muscles in their tails which they use to move the whole body up and down in a smooth motion. This movement in the water causes the dolphin to move forward. This is another key difference between dolphins and fish. Fish move their bodies from side to side as they swim, whereas with dolphins, all of the movement is up and downwards motion. The faster the dolphin moves its tail up and down, the faster it will propel itself through the water. The tail fluke is used to control the direction of the water, and dolphins can reposition this and tilt their heads up in order to swim towards the surface of the water, or tilt their heads down to dive further into the sea.
They have a high fat content which makes them very buoyant so they don’t find it at all difficult to float to the surface. This helps them get to the surface quickly if they begin to run out of air.
They use the flippers on each side for steering and do not use them for propelling themselves through the water at all. The flippers are also sometimes used as brakes if the dolphin needs to slow down quickly. The dorsal fin located in the middle of their back works as a stabilizer, keeping them upright so that they don’t barrel roll by accident.
The tail and flippers are used in conjunction with one another when it comes to breaching, flipping and jumping. As the dolphin moves closer to the surface of the water, powerful flicks of the tail give it enough force to leap into the air and the flippers are then used to help direct themselves into flips and turns.Dolphin Facts | Dolphin Information | Dolphin Species | Dolphins FAQ