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Dolphins create new art form #fb

July 28, 2010

Dolphins Create New Art Form

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The young dolphin gives a quick flip of her head, and an undulating silver ring appears as if by magic in front of her. Like the rim of a magic mirror, or the doorway to an unseen dimension.

For several moments the dolphin regards its creation, from varying aspects and angles with its vision and sonar.

Then, seemingly making a judgment, the dolphin quickly pulls a small silver donut from the larger structure, which collapses into small bubbles.

She then "pushes" the smaller donut, which stays just inches ahead of her, for the next several seconds.

Then, stopping again, she regards the twisting ring for one last time and bites it, causing it to collapse into a thousand tiny bubbles

After a few moments of reflection, she creates another.

Two baby dolphins named Tinkerbelle and Maui have been creating their aquatic art for a while now.

As it turns out, small silver rings weren’t the only toys the dolphins were making. Tinkerbelle proved able to create a silver helix, spiraling 20 feet long, that would remain stable in the water as she swam past.

As I pondered this wonderful mystery, my attempts at re-creating these rings in a swimming pool succeeded only in getting water up my nose.

The silver rings are "air-core vortex rings" — invisible, spinning vortices in the water generated from the tip of a dolphin’s dorsal fin when it moves and turns rapidly.

Air is injected into the rings via bubbles released from the dolphin’s blowhole.

http://jonathanbellinger.typepad.com/.a/6a01053714d286970b011570f9f4c6970b-800wi

The energy of the water vortex is enough to keep the bubbles from rising for a reasonably long period — around 10 seconds. There also seems to be a separate mechanism for producing small rings, which a dolphin can accomplish by a quick flip of its head.

These young dolphins have manipulated a subtle aspect of their environment for no reason other than to play and have fun.

The social situation they find themselves in also seems to affect their ring-blowing: the babies made them most intensely while they were the only two dolphins in the tank or when there was only one adult. The behavior stopped entirely when they were outnumbered by adult dolphins.

During one intense session with Tinkerbelle, there were often two or three rings visible in the tank at one time. She frequently swam over to me in an excited state, then went and made more of them.

These vortex rings are art created by a non-human mind, with no use other than entertainment and aesthetics.

If they can spin silver lariats for the sheer joy of creation, then what sort of creatures are we, if we cannot appreciate and protect them?

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