Dolphin stuns boaters with series of backflips across the water; video

Pacific white-sided dolphin in the middle of a backflip. Photo: Courtesy of Slater Moore/Monterey Bay Whale Watch

Pacific white-sided dolphins are known for their sleek and beautiful appearance, and also for their playfulness.

But on Wednesday in Monterey Bay, one of a pod of about 400 Pacific white-sided dolphins took this exuberance to a new level by performing a series of backflips across the water.

Part of the sequence was captured on video by Slater Moore, a photographer for Monterey Bay Whale Watch.

"Everyone was super excited because it was unexpected," Moore told GrindTV. "People were shocked because most people don't think of dolphins doing flips in the wild."

The footage is a bit shaky, Moore said, because he had been shooting stills from a distance with a long lens when the dolphin began to flip. "It flipped about 10 times," Moore said.

Pacific white-sided dolphin begins a backflip off Southern California in 2009. Photo: Courtesy of ©Alisa Schulman-Janiger

Nancy Black, owner of Monterey Bay Whale Watch and an expert on Pacific white-sided dolphins, said during a recent American Cetacean Society conference that they are the only dolphin species in the Northern Hemisphere to backflip fairly regularly.

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Black told GrindTV: “This behavior occurs when these dolphins are in large groups, usually over 500 to several thousand, and many members of the group are engaged in repetitive leaping behaviors.

“While studying them for my masters I documented 13 types of surface active behaviors. The dolphins appear to be involved in social interactions while aerially active.  It’s not rare but rarely seen by people unless you are there at the right time, or spend lots of time with them.”

Dusky dolphins, their close relatives in the Southern Hemisphere, are famous for backflipping.

Pacific white-sided dolphins, which are easily identifiable because of their creamy white bellies and sides, are found in temperate waters of the North Pacific.