Fish: Dolphins ‘dolphin-kick’ better than humans

Dr. Fish of Westchester University not only specialises in manta rays and whales, [see previous post;  Dr. Fish, Dr. Watts and their cetacean tubercules] he also investigates dolphins. In collaboration with Alfred von Loebbecke, Rajat Mittal and Russell Mark, Dr. Fish examined : ‘Propulsive Efficiency of the Underwater Dolphin Kick in Humans’ (Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, May 2009, Vol. 131)


The experimental team found that the mean propulsive efficiency of underwater dolphin-kicks in humans is a comparatively underwhelming 29%, whereas the mean propulsive efficiency of a typical cetacean is an impressive 56%.

A slightly later paper by the same authors in Human Movement Science 28 (2009) 99–112 ‘A comparison of the kinematics of the dolphin kick in humans and cetaceans‘ offered a convincing explanation as to why this might be happening :


“The underperformance (as measured by number of kicks per body length travel) of human swimmers when compared to cetaceans is a consequence of their anatomy and musculature.”

BONUS: Aleyev, women and dolphins