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The spinner dolphin gets its name from the spectacular displays that it puts on when jumping, flipping and spinning out of the water. It is an incredibly social species and spinner dolphins will spend a lot of their day playing in the bow waves of boats, creating incredible shows for on looking humans.
The spinner is a small, slender dolphin which can be found all over the world. Adult males measure approximately 129 – 235 cm from nose to tail, and the females come nearer the end of this range. The heaviest recorded spinner dolphin weighed nearly 80 kg, which makes it one of the lightest species of dolphin in the world. The average spinner dolphin doesn’t way anywhere near this much, but closer to 40 kg.
The spinner dolphin has a tripartite color pattern, with three bands of different shades of grey running horizontally down its side. The top of the dolphin and the dorsal fin are the darkest, with the lightest stripe in the middle. It has a relatively long and narrow beak compared to other species of dolphin and a triangular dorsal fin.
Most species of dolphin occur in exactly the same form in their various habitats throughout the world. The spinner dolphin is different in the sense that various different versions of it exist and which version you are likely to see depends entirely on your location. In the Pacific Ocean, a species of spinner thrives which has a relatively small skull when compared to its counterparts in other places in the world. It also has a shorter beak than some other types of spinner dolphin.
In the coastal waters off South East Asia you will be able to find a dwarf spinner dolphin which is much smaller generally than any of the other spinner dolphins found worldwide. These subspecies all come under the umbrella term of ‘spinner dolphin’ but they do all have their own distinctive characteristics.
Most spinner dolphins are found living in tropical seas. They prefer the warm water but unlike other species of dolphin, they do not stay closer to the coast in order to find it. Spinner dolphins prefer to live far further out to sea than most other species and for this reason are only really seen by people who travel long distances by boat. You are unlikely to see a pod of spinner dolphins from a short dolphin or whale watching tour.