Bubble Rings, Dolphins and Whales

Diver almost touches a bubble ring he has made (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

11 December 2022

Similar to smoke rings, bubbles rings are vortexes that spin internally while they move through the water.

The internal spinning keeps the core in shape and allows it to continue traveling long after other bubbles have dispersed.

Dolphins and whales purposely produce bubble rings from their blow holes and play with them. They examine and prod the rings, roll them like wheels, speed them up, or nudge them until a smaller ring splits off. They will even bite or swallow the ring or swim through it if it’s large enough.

Beluga whales make bubble rings at Shimane Kaiyokan Aquas (aquarium) in Hamada, Japan (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Divers familiar with the wild animals probably knew about this long ago. The rest of us saw it for the first time at aquariums. Here are some videos.

Video from 2008:

Video from 2010 at Sea World:

p.s. Though scientists have written about dolphins and bubble rings for at least 50 years, BBC Earth published a video only 8 months ago in which a scuba diver placed a bubble machine underwater and filmed the dolphins’ reactions. The narrated script says the dolphins are afraid of the manufactured bubbles and have to learn to be brave. Apparently, the producer was not aware dolphins already know about bubble rings, so why would they be afraid? Sigh. It’s a good example of why you cannot believe everything you hear on TV. Stay curious!

(photos and animation from Wikimedia Commons; click on the captions to see the originals. videos embedded from YouTube)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *