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namu-the-orca's avatar

Where the water meets the sky

Title by xSkyeCrystalx

Species depicted: Northern right whale dolphin (Lissodelphis borealis) and Pacific white-sided dolphin (Lagenorhynchus obliquidens)
Time taken: ~10-15 hours
References used:…………
Tools of the trade: Photoshop CS5

Well, here it is, finally! A mixed pod of both Northern right whale dolphins as well as Pacific white-sided dolphins breaking the glassy smooth surface during sunrise. I've wached the amazing movie 'Life of Pi' some time ago (it was really good, especially given the book was so detailed and difficult to put down in images) and was especially amazed by the scene where Pi wakes up in the morning and the ocean is simply one big mirror, perfectly reflecting the gorgeous sky above. Inspired, I decided to paint something like it - only then without the clouds as I kinda suck at those. The mini contest for the Northern right whale dolphin over at Exp-Marine-Mammals was drawing in near, and it struck me how (ant)arctic cetaceans especially are almost exclusively portrayed in grey or blue scenes. I wanted to flip that view all around and after some googling my suspicions were confirmed: sunrises over Japan, Alaska and the rest of the cold north can be just as orange and spectacular as anywhere else. Thus, this painting was born! It was a real challenge to say the least, mainly the splashes made me go crazy so in the end I just went with the fantastically helpful water splash brushes by FrostBo (I forgot which one it was, he's got several) and cut and modified them along the way where needed.

This painting is in part also dedicated to SkyebobPiepants who wrote in a journal her favourite cetacean artists had either gone inactive or started drawing 'boring' stuff. I hope this'll inspire you a little bit! :D

On a different note, it is quite interesting that both the Northern- as the well as the Southern right whale dolphin closely associate with a species of lagenorhynchus dolphins they share their range with. Whilst the Southerners come together with Dusky dolphins - and even interbreed! - the Northerners are very often seen with Pacific white-sided dolphins. Why would they do this? I know that there has been a proposed new taxonomy of the lagenorhynchus genus in which the Duskies and the Pacific white-sided dolphins would be placed together with Peale's in the genus of Sagmatias, but that is based on the idea these dolphins are more closely related to the cephalorhynchus dolphins. Does anyone know the reason for this Lagenorhynchus/Lissodelphis 'friendship'?

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Aquila200's avatar
Thsi is just stunning! I love the fiery sunset colours, and the energy of the leaping dolphins! :D

I didn't know that North Right Whale Dolphins and Pacific White-sided Dolphins are often seen together, or that Southern Right Whale Dolphins often associate with Dusky Dolphins; thanks for that really fascinating info!
namu-the-orca's avatar
Thank you so much! You write some very kind elaborate comments :)

Yeah, it is fascinating, even more so because there's these two species pairs mirroring each other in the North and South. It must be that they gain some sort of benefit from sticking together, or at least you'd think so!
Aquila200's avatar
You're welcome! :)

I wouldn't be at all surprised if you're right about the two species pairs benefiting from associating with each other. Perhaps, as acepredator mentioned, they help each other when hunting, or perhaps they help each other with defence against Orcas or sharks.
Maybe the two genera are cosympatric because they depend heavily on each other during hunting? 

If there are hunting alliances between spinner dolphins and yellowfin tuna, between common dolphins and bluefin tuna, and between most seabirds and various pelagic predators, no reason two delphinids wouldn't form a hunting alliance.
namu-the-orca's avatar
It is an interesting theory, though I have never heard of evidence to support the theory that Lissodelphis and Lagenorhynchus dolphins cooperate during hunting. That does not have to mean it doesn't happen of course, but still. It also would not necessarily explain why both complementary species would have formed the same alliance.

And I do not believe the links between dolphins and tuna and birds and pelagic predators could truly be called an alliance. The sight of seabirds attract predators because they signal the presence of fish, but they do not help one another to hunt - if anything the birds disrupt the tightly corralled bait balls. And I believe tuna only feed on scraps left over by the dolphins' hunts, rather than taking any part in the actual chase.
Yes, tuna do take part in the chase (there are thousands of bait ball videos showing tuna are often the instigators in the hunt), and they are just as good at rounding up baitballs as dolphins. They are targeting the live fish, not the leftovers.

If the marine predators didn't push up the bait to the surface, the birds would not be able to get at them. Since the birds rely on the other predators it could be called a relationship.
namu-the-orca's avatar
I know that tuna on their own are very proficient hunters but I did not, and do not know if they also cooperate with the hunts of the dolphins pods they follow. Do you have any sources or information regarding that? Because all I've ever heard about it was that the tuna simply 'follow' the dolphin pods with little further explanation.

Yes, a relationship is a good term, but you called them hunting 'alliances' in your original post. There is certainly a relationship between the bird and oceanic predators, but that relationship does not need be mutually beneficial nor is it purposefully instigated by both parties, and so alliance was not a correct term. That's what I was pointing out.
There is some symbiotic benefit to both species (this is not an obligatory or permanent relationship BTW: it is mostly juvenile tuna that associate with dolphins and predation pressure plays a big role as well, hence fully grown tuna hunting more by themselves).

From watching baitball footage, however, it seems to be the case pelagic predators often hunt cooperatively, and that the more species there are the less chance the prey have at escape. If I remember correctly there's a video of bluefin tuna and common dolphin targeting the same bait, with the dolphins mostly coming from the sides while the tuna came from below.
namu-the-orca's avatar
That is definitely interesting. I personally haven't seen or watched such cooperative baitball herding videos yet, but that's cool.
Jamie-MacArthur's avatar
NocturnalSea's avatar
I really love the atmosphere of this piece.  Those yellow sunsets have a very haunting, otherworldly feel to me.  It's funny, I've always associated them with polar regions, even though I've seen them as far south as Georgia in the US.

I also like that subtle lens flare effect you added on the right side.  And the flaring light over the dorsal fin of the dolphin on the far left.  Little touches like that really add to the realism of your piece.
namu-the-orca's avatar
Huh, never imagined brightly coloured sunsets would be associated with the arctics by someone :) You see them so often plastered on/in cliché palm beach sunset photo, it's hard to escape the sunset-summer beach association. Awesome you noticed those little details; like you said it's the little touches that add to a painting. Thank you for the comment! :D
Altair75's avatar
Awesome work!

It's more than beautiful, it's fantastic! :D (Big Grin) 

I can't believe that you have so much know-how to do something like this!

Well done! Clap 
namu-the-orca's avatar
Thank you so much! That's really very kind of you :love:
Altair75's avatar
My pleasure! ;) (Wink) 
goldenliontamarin's avatar
My favorite painting of all time. Flawless!
namu-the-orca's avatar
Thanks so much! I have a strange sort of love/hate relationship with this piece, but I'm glad to know almost all who have commented so far seemed to love it :D
goldenliontamarin's avatar
DolphinChild's avatar
TOOO Beautiful :O im amazed you know Soooo much of the taxonomy.... I love dolphins to death but never learned all the names and relationships with each species.....  WOW at you knowlege and your talent!!! I havent posted in AGES since I became ill even more, but when im better ill get back to it, I wont do digital til my health comes ba completely though , (and whe get a TABLET :D) Good luck on all your projects!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! still one of your #1 fans :P
namu-the-orca's avatar
Well, I have been studying these animals for some time, and from time to time I also read up on new things and then make a painting about that - the association with the lags was one of those things :) You good luck with everything too and I wish you good health!
dracoequine's avatar
O.o... that is an *awesome* pic... <3 the sunset (?)... and the dolphins are gorgeous as well!
namu-the-orca's avatar
Yep, indeed a sunset! Thanks a lot for the comments, I'm glad you like it :aww:
Nonyak's avatar
This is absolutely beautiful, perfect, and breathtaking. GORGEOUS!
namu-the-orca's avatar
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