Spinner Dolphins

Enter the mysterious world of spinner dolphins and discover how and why they perform the complex aerial activities, unique to their kind.

Produced by NHNZ

A dolphin breaks through the surface of the calm waters of Fernando de Noronha, spraying water as it rockets into the air, twisting its glistening body and then plunges back into the deep.

This is a spinner dolphin, one of the great ocean wanderers.

Spinners dive, leap, twist and perform aerial feats unique to their kind. These powerful creatures are so perfectly adapted to their oceanic environment, so advanced in their design that they are able to perform complex manoeuvres like no other.

These shy animals are rarely seen up close, and there are a few special places around the world where they choose to mate and bring up their young. Spinner Dolphins explores one such place, the Bay of Dolphins at the island of Fernando de Noronha, NE Brazil.

Each morning groups of up to 300 dolphins return to the Bay after a night of hunting in the open ocean. Although no-one can be sure, scientists think the spinners return to the Bay of Dolphins each day because of the protection it offers. Unlike the open waters where predators can approach from all directions, the Bay offers shelter for the pods to rest and play and prepare for more hunting at nightfall.

In the Bay of Dolphins we study the spinners’ behaviour and take an in-depth look at how their perfectly adapted bodies enable them to perform such spectacular displays. With the use of cutting-edge computer graphics we look inside the spinners to explore how their anatomical make-up powers the spins, leaps and twists above and below the surface of the water.

And once we’ve determined how they spin, we solve the mystery of why they spin. Researchers believe it is a way of communicating to the rest of the pod, or perhaps a method of concentrating the group when on the move, and the message is hidden in the bubble prints formed when the dolphin hits the water.

The archipelago is important for the security of spinner dolphins, for it is here that they come to rest and socialise. We follow the work of a scientist, Jose Martins Junior, who has spent 10 years studying the spinners’ behaviour as they patrol and guard the perimeter of the tranquil bay using sonic and visual techniques to locate predators and communicate danger.

This is a quest to understand spinner dolphin culture and behaviour and, above all, determine how and why these intriguing creatures catapult themselves into perfectly timed complex manoeuvres.

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