The above photo might look like something from Ripley’s Believe It or Not– but believe it. Some populations of spinner dolphin that live in the tropical Pacific have bizarre backwards dorsal fins, a phenomenon that has left scientists and marine biologists scratching their heads.
“We’ve known about these dolphins for 50 years,” said Matt Leslie, a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in an interview with Scientific American. “but not a lot has been done to actually study why it’s on backwards.”
Leslie is currently fundraising for an experiment that he hopes will finally shed some light on the mystery. His plan is to build a model of the dolphin and put it in a flow tank. As water moves over the model, Leslie will be able to observe whether the bizarre backwards fin affects the mechanics of the dolphin’s swimming ability.
Though the experiment has yet to be completed, there are a few key clues from aeronautical technology that suggest how the backwards fin may aid the dolphin’s maneuverability.