Dolphins blowing rings

These dolphins have a lot of fun blowing bubble rings from their blowholes and popping them. (Thanks, Bruce Stewart!)


  1. I’ve watched balugas do this trick here in Vancouver. They have a different style of creating the bubble rings, but the play is similar. I was mesmerized when I first noticed this playful behaviour.

  2. it’s ecco the dolphin!

    but seriously… wow. And the way they learn the behavior from other dolphins is incredible. Personally i would assume that means there some sort of communication between the dolphins be it verbal or otherwise to teach the trick. otherwise it would be like seeing somebody blow a smoke ring and then knowing how to do it yourself without anyone telling you how.

  3. Now I want someone with a degree in fluid dynamics to tell me how they do it. Those rings hang there like it’s nothing, when they should be floating to the surface quite quickly.

  4. Now we know why our children are fascinated with soap bubbles. I wonder how many Humans entertain the notion that their spirit is comfortable in Dolphin skin? Or Whale skin? Most people seem to prefer identifying much lower in the world of predation. Most human behavior mimics Rat colonies. That is why they are a favorite laboratory animal.

  5. dolphins use bubble nets as a fishing strategy in the wild. they circle below the targeted school releasing circular bubble nets that coral the fish into tighter and tighter schools.

  6. Caught this on TV the other day and had to compulsively watch it over and over again – beautiful. Now I wish I had a blowhole.

  7. “An explanation of how dolphins make these silver rings is that they are’air-core vortex rings’. Invisible, spinning vortices in the water are
    generated from the tip of a dolphin’s dorsal fin when it is moving rapidly and turning. When dolphins break the line, the ends are drawn
    together into a closed ring. The higher velocity fluid around the core of the vortex is at a lower pressure than the fluid circulating farther
    away. Air is injected into the rings via bubbles released from the dolphin’s blowhole. The energy of the water vortex is enough to keep the
    bubbles from rising for a reasonably few seconds of play time.”


  9. These are actually antibubbbles — a thin layer of air surrounding a water core, immersed in water. Hence their low buoyancy.

  10. in a still pool, if you let yourself lay on the bottom, you too can blow air rings. I used to have a blast with it when I was a kid.

  11. yea, I’d find ways to keep busy if you LOCKED me up and put me on display! I, for one, welcome our …

  12. Wyklyn, most smart animals get bored when they don’t have much to do. Dolphins, unlike many humans, then find ways of entertaining themselves. That might suggest that dolphins are smarter than people.

  13. I saw a dolphin at the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas do this repeatedly last summer. He used a different method to produce the ring however – he slapped his tail (fluke?) against the surface of the water to create the initial air pocket. He would then repeatedly bite the ring to reduce it to smaller sizes.

  14. Wow. Seeing the dolphins do that makes me feel slightly guilty when I dunk a chunk of dolphin sushi into the soy sauce.

  15. Oooh, how awesome. I want to learn how to blow smoke rings. Been trying for ages. Still can’t.

  16. Tenn: >”…I want to learn how to blow smoke rings. Been trying for ages. Still can’t…”

    Take a big drag.
    Make your mouth nice and round.
    Push a blob of smoke out of your mouth with the back of your tongue, not your diaphragm.
    Practice, but not enough to get mouth cancer.

  17. I’ll tell ya what the dolphins are doing: they’re goofing off. Man didn’t invent goofing off; we probably learned it from animals. When they’re not worried about enemies or food, they get creative and spend energy monkeying around. That may be how we came to build houses-playing with mud and/or sticks. Focused goofing off is what we call Engineering.

  18. @15

    the pool has to be calm, jets will cause water movement that can mess you up. Other than that just like blowing a smoke rings. Make a fishface and puff air right as you pop open your mouth. Use a round mouthshape. The bubble will get larger as it ascends. The hardest part is learning to lay on the pool bottom making the smallest water movements.

    Dolphin use a number of strategies for their rings. A dolphin in, Hawaii(i think) made a bubble helix. I believe the physic was laid out several years ago in Discover, or SciAm.

  19. #15, I don’t know about smoke rings, but air rings are fun. I use a kind of round mouth/pursed lips and simultaneously do a little cough of air while opening and then closing your lips. Hard to describe, you kinda need to spend a bunch of time practicing it. It’s amazing when you pull it off, even better when you can get a series of perfect ones off one breath. They travel up quite a bit slower than regular bubbles, expanding diameter on the way.

  20. Tenn. Take the cigarette out of your mouth.. Now, young lady!

    Troof, you should be ahamed.

    /Only half joking (the second half).

  21. It gets better: the dolphins know the math, but they won’t tell us, because, frankly, they think that we won’t get it.

    I really like the trick where the dolphin breaks a big ring and gets a small ring to evolve out of it. Awesome. I also like the bend-and-twist tricks. Awesome 2.

  22. what does a vortex ring do to a sonar pulse? Can they trim return signals, focus pulses? If dolphin sonar approaches vision, these bubbles must interplay with resolution and other factors.

  23. @Arky- It’s actually legal for me now. :p

    I smoked cigarettes off and on, usually while at work, for at least eight months. Mostly because we didn’t have breaks provided, but you could go outside and take a smoke break (isn’t that ridiculous? and I was underage and my boss knew it.) – that and as stress relief from the old men ogling my butt.

    The last one I had was on my birthday. I still have the whole pack, minus one for me and one for my friend. I don’t know if I can actually be addicted to nicotine. Though everyone says that’s what they all say.

    However! Hookah is great, a nice blend of mango and blackberry. I like tobacco- but you can taste the embalming fluid in cigarettes. No thanks!

  24. Oh, and I know you weren’t just talking about the legality! Smoking’s a terrible habit which I don’t plan to make.

    My granddad smoked pipe tobacco when I was a young girl. Quit because I had asthma. (Before the “Smoking with ASTHMA?” comments- It was childhood. Gone now. :D)

    1. And it couldn’t possibly exacerbate any of your other health problems, young lady?

  25. Tenn, you can use rose pedals to make a really loud pop sound, like a gun, so rather than agrivate your asthma, you can give Grampa a heart attack.
    Sorry girls… it’s a guy thing.

  26. @#18 nanuq:

    “Blowing bubbles is never a waste of time so long as there’s a porpoise behind it.”

    You are the winner!!!! Groucho couldn’t have said it better.

    @#22 Keeper of the Lantern: That’s probably dolphin tuna, not dolphin mammal

  27. I suggested this link months ago. I am beginning to think that the Boingmasters just don’t want to post anything I recommend until suggested by someone else. =( -How’s that for an anti-chaser?

  28. Me@~48: Well, someone had to come up with a trollish comment in a thread about frolicking dolphins… =P

  29. Antinous, Arkizzle: Glad to have such esteemed company. =D This makes me feel much better now. Thanks!

  30. “We mostly see the females doing it, for some reason.”

    Gee, how strange! I don’t know of any other animals where the female of the species has a fascination with rings. :p

  31. I used to blow air rings underwater whilst snorkling. Basically… dive down about 2-3 metres, turn onto your back and look directly up. Then purse your lips and open to expel air from your mouth whilst making a “PUH” sound. If you do it right you get an air ring, mesmerising to watch.

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