Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) are by far one of the most interactive and cheerful species of dolphin that can be encountered around Madeira! The archipelago’s waters are full of these cheeky dolphins during the summer months and our crew and guests have enjoyed countless sightings that involved the animals leaping towards us, riding the waves at our bow, feeding close to our boat and zapping us with their sonar below the surface during our snorkelling tours.
The spotted are one of five species of dolphin belonging to the genus Stenella, and are the taxonomic cousins of the famously inquisitive Spinner dolphins (Stenella logirostris) and the gorgeous Striped dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba). All species belonging to this genus are very different and vary in appearance as well as their will to interact with boats and people in the water. This is especially evident during tours with sightings of both spotted dolphins and Striped dolphins, the two Stenella species that occur around Madeira. While spotted usually dart towards us during a sighting, the Striped tend to dart away!
What all three Stenella species have in common is that they are notorious surface acrobats. The Spinners are famous for turning around a longitudinal axis as they leap into the air, a characteristic behaviour that earnt them their common name. The Striped dolphins often leap out of the water in perfect synchrony, flashing their marble-like flank pattern as they do.
The spotted, on the other hand, tend to leap extremely high up in the air, an acrobatic aerial display that has been linked to social behaviour. Todays group of spotted also gave a magnificent performance today, jumping at least 2-3m high and flashing their pink bellies as they did. This once again simply highlights their playful, social nature and is a reminder of why we enjoy encounters with them so much!
By Paula Thake
Sightings of the day
10:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins
15:00 Atlantic spotted dolphins