June 1, 2024 at 3:33 pm

Here’s Why Marine Biologists Think Dolphins Swim In Front Of Ships

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

If you’ve been lucky enough to spend time on the open ocean, you might have been lucky enough to see dolphins frolicking in the waves by the bow, too.

Why would they do that, though? Aren’t they afraid of being run over?

They’ve been doing it for as long as people have been on ships and able to record what they’ve seen.

Marine biologists think they have the answer, and it has to do with the cetaceans exploiting the pressure wave caused by the boat.

Bottlenose dolphins in particular enjoy doing this, and a 2009 study looked into the behavior in that species.

Source: Shutterstock

They found that in a three year period, 201 groups of dolphins encountered boats, and only 44 of them interacted. The bow riding could be used to reduce the energy cost of swimming, but they suspect it could also simply be a playful behavior.

They also found that factors like the type of vessel, the vessel’s activity, and the engine status all factor in to how they choose which ones to interact with.

Another study found that the region of the sea also factors in, with dolphins in the Istanbul Strait being the most likely to hang around in the southern entrance to the strait.

The area contains favorable fishing, suggesting the interactions could be part of a feeding and foraging strategy – but they agreed play probably figured into things, too.

Dolphins have been sighted bow-riding basking sharks, too, and researchers believe it could be a feeding strategy or playful behavior in that instance, too.

Source: Shutterstock

So, while there are several suggestions as to why dolphins might be drawn to riding a bow of a boat (or a shark) the one thing they all agree on is that they enjoy it.

Dolphins are highly intelligent, social, curious animals, so that definitely tracks.

I love how the more we learn about dolphins, the more they seem like the human beings of the sea.

If you thought that was interesting, you might like to read about why we should be worried about the leak in the bottom of the ocean.