Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Video shows dolphins creating and playing with bubble rings.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, September 2008]
Origins: We don't know the specific origins of this video clip, but bottlenose dolphins' producing and manipulating bubble rings is indeed a real phenomenon that has been observed and described by researchers, as noted in the 2000 article "Bubble Ring Play of Bottlenose Dolphins: Implications for Cognition," published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology:
Ongoing research into the cognitive capabilities of dolphins and other cetaceans has captured the interest and imagination of both the scientific community and the public. Bottlenose dolphins are gregarious mammals that show a strong propensity for play behavior with physical objects and with [each other]. There haveLast updated: 17 September 2008
Air-breathing dolphins always produce bubbles when they expel air underwater. Besides bubble rings, dolphins also produce a wide variety of other bubble types. They occasionally emit bubble streams concurrent with vocal activity. When surprised, curious, or excited, dolphins often emit a rapid exhalation termed a bubble burst. Breathing in dolphins, unlike in other mammals, is solely under voluntary control, a crucial feature in their adaptation to a fully aquatic existence. Whereas the physics of ring formation is straightforward, the actual production of stable rings may require some practice, expertise, and forethought by the dolphins.
Dolphins in different oceanariums have been reported to produce bubble rings. For example, dolphins would swim to the bottom of the pool, stop, assume a horizontal position, and then with a sharp upward jerk of the head, expel a ring of air through their blowhole.
Dolphins frequently manipulate their bubble rings by generating vortices around the objects, which cause the bubble rings to turn vertically by 90° or flip in orientation 180°. Bubble play can result in a sequence of two bubble rings, such that the second bubble ring joins the first bubble ring to form a large bubble ring, which is often then further manipulated. Sometimes a third smaller bubble ring extrudes from the larger ring as a result of the force of impact between the first and second bubble rings. This third bubble ring is frequently manipulated by the dolphins in a similar manner as described above for single rings where the dolphins vertically turn the bubble ring or completely flip the ring.
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