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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Flippin' heck: The dolphins that can jump as high as a double decker bus

By Daily Mail Reporter

Making a splash: The playful pod of spotted dolphins show of with some spectacular aerial moves

These amazing pictures show a gang of young, spotted dolphins leaping an incredible 15 feet in the air - high enough to clear a double decker bus.

The six foot long marine mammals are jumping an astounding two and a half times their own body length.

Two boisterous juveniles are shown throwing their weight about in order to teach the one smaller calf how to assert itself within the pod of dolphins they belong to.

And back down we go: The Atlantic Spotted Dolphins were captured by British photographer, Anthony Pierce, 30, from Leeds.

Watch me fly: A spotted dolphin rockets high into the air as it's friends play nearby

The rarely seen images of three spotted dolphins leaping together were taken by a British photographer, Anthony Pierce, 30, from Leeds.

Anthony was visiting friends who own a catamaran and research marine mammals off the coast of Pico Island in the Azores - the group of Portugese islands in the Atlantic.

'You can see leaping dolphins from a great distance - several miles away,' he explained.

'There are look out posts on the coast that can see for miles out to sea - they send out radio calls to let people know.

'We got a call that dolphins were leaping and got in our boat and headed out there to see them.

'Different dolphins jump in different ways.

'We got closer and closer - and eventually you can identify what species they are by how they're jumping.

'They were jumping a lot but mainly alone - which meant they were either common or spotted dolphins.

'And once we were really close we saw the distinctive spots so I knew they must be spotted.'

Synchronised flipping: Members of the pod of spotted dolphins line up for more aerial acrobatics

Despite years of research into the subject scientists are still at a loss to explain exactly how dolphins are able to generate enough power to jump these incredible distances.

As spotted dolphins nearly always leap alone - despite having dedicated the last five years of his life to dolphin photography - Anthony was bowled over by the sight of the three jumping together.

'I very rarely see that and I've travelled all over the world looking for them,' he explained.

'It's a social display - like a gang of human teenagers having a lark.

'They're up to mischief mucking about together.

'They're putting so much effort into their jumping you can see they must be getting a kick out of it.

'When dolphins leap like this its usually for social reasons.

'They devote so much energy playing in this way it's unlikely they're doing it purely for the purposes of travelling from A to B.

'It must be a thrill to be travelling through the air.'

Gravity defying: Despite years of research scientists are still at a loss to explain how the dolphins are able to generate enough power to jump so high

The set of dramatic images also shows a mother showing her calf how to jump - suggesting that there is an important reason for the exuberant leaps the charismatic creatures make.

The leaps follow a pattern, with spotted dolphins doing one huge initial jump followed by two or three more quickly afterwards.

'It is a very difficult shot to take because they're only above the water for a fraction of a second,' explained Anthony.

'I have to press the shutter down before they break through the surface in order to capture them - because they're so incredibly quick.

'I have to predict where they're going to be.

'Its' a fantastic experience - they're wild animals - not in a sanctuary or in a show somewhere.'

Spotted dolphins start their lives a uniform grey colour until they reach juvenile age and spots begin to appear.

They reach sexual maturity at between six and eight years-old and as they get older the spots on their skin become more dense.

They are smaller than other species so do not have the body fat to live in cold seas.

The sea mammals live in sub-tropical and tropical waters - feeding off a variety of fish and squid.



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