Nav: Home

Young dolphins pick their friends wisely

July 23, 2020

DURHAM , N.C. -- Strategic networking is key to career success, and not just for humans. A new study of wild bottlenose dolphins reveals that in early life, dolphins devote more time to building connections that could give them an edge later on.

Researchers at Georgetown University and Duke University report that dolphins under age 10 seek out peers and activities that could help them forge bonds and build skills they'll need in adulthood.

The results were published July 14 in the journal Behavioral Ecology.

The team analyzed nearly 30 years' worth of records for more than 1700 wild bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay in Western Australia. Since the 1980s, researchers have been taking boats out into this remote bay and noting things like the sex, age and behavior of any dolphins they encountered.

For the current study, the team focused on data collected on youngsters from weaning to age 10, looking at who they hung out with and how they spent their time when no adults were around.

Around 3 or 4 years old, dolphins leave the protection of their mothers to venture off on their own, living in ever-changing groups that come together, split up and come together again in different combinations.

The study revealed that, even though young dolphins flit from group to group as often as every ten minutes throughout the day, they tend to spend more time with a few close friends.

These companions aren't just friends because they share the same areas of water and bump into each other more often, the research shows. "These relationships reflect true preferences," said first author Allison Galezo, a biology Ph.D. student in professor Susan Alberts' lab at Duke.

Males prefer to hang out with other males; females with other females. But the researchers observed that males and females tend to interact in different ways. Males were more likely than females to spend their time together resting or engaged in friendly physical contact: rubbing flippers, swimming close together and mirroring each other's movements. Whereas females socialized less often, and instead spent twice as much time as their male counterparts foraging for fish.

These differences suggest that the social lives of young dolphins may be shaped by the upcoming demands of adulthood, Galezo said.

For adult males, having other males in their corner is key to have a chance at passing on their genes. In Shark Bay, groups of two to three male dolphins often join forces to get fertile females alone with them and coerce them to mate. By the time they grow up, males will need to have enough social savvy to build and maintain strong alliances, or lose out on their chance to get a girl.

Being a successful adult female, on the other hand, means caring for calves that aren't weaned until they're at least three years old. Nursing moms need more calories, and so young females may spend more time foraging to practice skills they'll need later on, before the full realities of motherhood set in.

"The juvenile period can be an opportunity to develop social skills that will be important in adulthood, without the high-stakes risks that go with sexual maturity," Galezo said.
-end-
This work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (0847922, 0820722, 9753044, 0316800, 0918308, 0941487, 1559380, 1755229) and by Georgetown University.

CITATION: "Juvenile Social Dynamics Reflect Adult Reproductive Strategies in Bottlenose Dolphins," Allison A. Galezo, Vivienne Foroughirad, Ewa Krzyszczyk, Céline H. Frère, Janet Mann. Behavioral Ecology, July 14, 2020. DOI: 10.1093/beheco/araa068

Duke University

Related Dolphins Articles:

Study finds high levels of toxic pollutants in stranded dolphins and whales
Researchers examined toxins in tissue concentrations and pathology data from 83 stranded dolphins and whales from 2012 to 2018.
Tracking humanity's latest toxins in stranded whales and dolphins
As humanity develops new types of plastics and chemicals, researchers are constantly trying to keep up with understanding how these contaminants affect the environment and wildlife.
Young dolphins pick their friends wisely
Strategic networking is key to career success, and not just for humans.
Dolphins learn foraging skills from peers
Dolphins can learn new skills from their fellow dolphins. That's the conclusion of a new study reported in the journal Current Biology on June 25.
Dolphins learn in similar ways to great apes
Dolphins learn new foraging techniques not just from their mothers, but also from their peers, a study by the University of Zurich has found.
Shelling out for dinner -- Dolphins learn foraging skills from peers
Dolphins use empty gastropod shells to trap prey. A new study demonstrates for the first time that dolphins can learn this foraging technique outside the mother-calf bond - showing that they have a similar cultural nature to great apes.
Good night? Satellite data uncovers dolphins on the move at nighttime
More than 1,000 bottlenose dolphins live in Florida's Indian River Lagoon year-round.
Cooperative male dolphins match the tempo of each other's calls
When it comes to working together, male dolphins coordinate their behavior just like us.
Dolphins gather in female family groups
Social clusters including mothers' groups play an important role in the life of southern Australian bottlenose dolphins, a new study shows.
Lights on fishing nets save turtles and dolphins
Placing lights on fishing nets reduces the chances of sea turtles and dolphins being caught by accident, new research shows.
More Dolphins News and Dolphins Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.