Aerodynamic striped dolphin is a “mean” lean swimming machine”

striped-dolphin6 These striped dolphin swims has speeds that would put Michael Phelps to shame. The dolphins swimming at speeds of up to 20 mph, the dolphin seems to defy nature’s laws. Swimming this speed seems to exceed available power by about 10 times what physics says is possible.

The striped dolphins having fun jumping and diving at the right are “porpoising” in the wake of a boat, a behavior that increases the animal’s swimming and breathing efficiency .

How can they reach such speeds?

The dolphin’s spindle-like body shape, along with their powerful tail power allow them to speed gracefully through the water. Those tail fins have a thrust of 212 pounds more than triple what a top Olympian like Phelps can produce.

A dolphin’s body has a dynamic aerodynamic shape with its rounded head and tapering to the tail which allows water to flow around the body to the tail region. Like a jet plane this shape results creates a small wake with reduced drag or friction. The crescent shape of the flippers, dorsal fin and tail (“flukes”) of the dolphin also reduce drag and can efficiently create lift when needed. Young dolphins often hitch a ride by swimming below the mid-section of the mother, taking advantage of flow structure and energy savings of up to 60%. (1)

The dolphin leaps out of the water at constant speed and then returns to the water with a shallow dive and coasts horizontally while losing speed. It then begins the next leap. Movement increases as the dolphin actively accelerating before it breaches the water again.

When diving deeply, the dolphin glides, allowing its lungs to partially collapse. This minimizes buoyancy and conserve both energy and oxygen.

How can the dolphin achieve such strong leaping and diving action?

Compared to human muscle power, dolphin muscles can generate several times more power. The power muscles burn energy faster for short strong bursts of speed while slow constant movement is controlled by slow energy release muscle fibers. Both types of fibers also have different physical length and muscle cell fiber structure.


1. Excerpts courtesy of

“The myth and reality of Gray’s paradox: implication of dolphin drag reduction for technology.”

Fish, Frank E. Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. 1 (2006) R17-R25. Lisa Zyga, Copyright 2006

Excerpts courtesy of

Fabulous flippers: Dolphins have quite the kick – MICHAEL HILL, A P November 24, 2008

Did you like this article? Please give us feedback.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: