Rounding out the LazyPaw Animal Hospitals dream tour of Hawaii, we’re putting a ridiculously cute spin on the ecological fantasy trip with… Spinner dolphins!
The islands are so teeming with life that you can book a tour to visit with wild dolphins, or you could kayak to a few special spots and spot them all on your own. Dolphins are famous for hanging out at Big Island’s Captain Cook Monument, aka Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park, which is teeming with both history and marine life. The crystalline waters are dotted with brilliant coral reefs, schools of tropical fish, and of course—spinner dolphins.
The tiny spinner dolphins, which are only 4 to 7 feet long and weigh 100-165 pounds, have thin snouts, white underbellies, and dark grey backs. Different populations live around the world in warmer tropical waters across the Pacific, from Thailand to Brazil and Hawaii. The Hawaiians, though, spend the most time near the shore and are generally more social with people and visiting boats.
They earned their name thanks to the species’ impressive acrobatic tricks. While most dolphins jump to the surface in a graceful arc, spinners socialize and burst to the surface with jubilant twists and turns. Check out this video example for a display of their antics!
Spinners are social, travelling in close-knit pods or schools and communicating in squeaks, clicks, and clacks. Even their various splashes are thought to broadcast different messages. Spinners live about 20 years and mate year-round, and when babies are born, they are only about 77 centimeters long.
At night, spinner dolphins snack on mesopelagic fish, shrimp, and squid that live in deep waters 650 to 1,000 feet below the surface. During the day, they like to cruise warmer shallow waters, which is why it’s so easy to spot them in tropical hangouts such as Captain Cook.
However, just because they can be easy to find doesn’t mean divers and snorkelers should assume they want to play. Spinners hunt at night in the deep water and spend their days resting, which is why laws were written in an effort to give them space from divers and curious humans.
Spinner dolphins, and all species of dolphin, are most threatened today by fishing boats. Because dolphins swim with tuna, they are easily trapped in fishing nets. Many companies now use dolphin-safe nets, but before picking up your next can of tuna, check the label to see if what you’re buying is friendly to dolphins. It’s a small step, but will make a big impact on whether future generations get to see these wonderful mammals!