How Fast Can Dolphins Swim – Speeds and Facts

Dolphins are some of the fastest and most agile swimmers in the ocean. Their hydrodynamic bodies allow them to reach incredible speeds for short bursts. But how fast can dolphins swim?

You might also enjoy reading The Top 5 Fastest Fish In The Ocean.

The top speed of a dolphin depends on the species. The fastest dolphin in the world is the short-beaked common dolphin, which can reach speeds up to 37 mph (60 km/h). Other fast species include:

  • Orcas: up to 34.5 mph (55.5 km/h)
  • Bottlenose dolphins: up to 22 mph (35 km/h)
  • Hector’s dolphins: up to 18 mph (29 km/h)

However, dolphins cannot maintain their top speeds for very long. Their cruising speed, which they can maintain over longer distances, is much lower.

Typical Dolphin Swimming Speeds

Type of SpeedSpeed
Efficient Traveling4-6 mph (6-9.5 km/h)
Cruising8-10 mph (13-16 km/h)
Short BurstUp to 17 mph (27 km/h)

Efficient traveling speed – Dolphins can swim at an efficient pace of about 4-6 mph for long periods without tiring. This allows them to migrate and cover large distances.

Cruising speed – Dolphins typically cruise at 8-10 mph. They can maintain this speed for some time while swimming and playing.

Short burst speed – When needing quick acceleration, dolphins can reach up to 17 mph over short distances of about 1 mile.

See also: The Fastest Fish In The Ocean.

Why Are Dolphins So Fast?
Why Are Dolphins So Fast?

Why Are Dolphins So Fast?

Dolphins have several special adaptations that make them excellent swimmers:

  • Streamlined bodies – Their fusiform shape and smooth skin reduces drag and turbulence in the water.
  • Powerful tails – Their tails move up and down, propelling them forward.
  • Flexible spines – Their spines bend and flex, increasing thrust with each tail stroke.
  • Flippers – Their flippers help provide stability and steer them.

Interesting Facts About Dolphin Swimming Speeds

  • Dolphins cannot breathe underwater – they must surface to breathe air. Despite this, they can swim nonstop for 15 miles without taking a breath.
  • When swimming at top speeds, dolphins leap in and out of the water in a behavior called “porpoising”. This helps them reduce drag.
  • Dolphins can draft off ships and boats, riding the bow wave and wake to help them swim faster with less effort.
  • Different species have different top speeds. The fastest is the common dolphin at 37 mph. Orcas can reach 34.5 mph.
  • Newborn dolphins have to learn to swim and develop their speed. At birth they can swim at around 2 mph.
  • Dolphins slow down to conserve energy. Their speed varies greatly depending on the situation.
  • Hydrodynamic designs inspired by dolphin skin are used on swimsuits, boats, and submarines to help them move faster through water.

So in summary, dolphins are capable of amazing speeds thanks to their streamlined bodies, flexible spines, powerful tails, and other adaptations. While they can reach up to 37 mph in short bursts, they more typically cruise at a comfortable 8-10 mph. Their speed allows them to migrate long distances, hunt prey, and breach spectacularly from the water.

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Steve Momot

Steve Momot

Steve is an accomplished professional photographer and marketer who specializes in the Fishing, Yacht, and Boating industry. With a strong presence as an influencer and marketing expert in the Marine Industry, he has made a significant impact in the field. Additionally, Steve is the original creator and co-founder of Sportfishtrader. Prior to his career as a marine photographer, he gained extensive experience as a licensed boat and car dealer in South Florida.

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