Collaborative male dolphins can tell who’s on their team

Three male dolphins and one female. Credit: Dr. Simon Allen

When it comes to friendships and rivalries, male dolphins know who the best team players are. New findings, published in Natural Communications by researchers at the University of Bristol, reveals that male dolphins form a social concept of team membership based on cooperative investment in the team.

Bristol researchers, with colleagues from the University of Zurich and the University of Massachusetts, used 30 years of observational data from dolphin populations in Sharkbay, Western Australia, and sound breeding experiments to assess how male dolphins responded to calls from other males from their allied network.

Dr Stephanie King, a university lecturer at Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, who led the research, said: “Social animals may possess sophisticated ways of classifying relationships with members of the same species. In our own society, we use social knowledge to classify individuals. in significant groups, such as sports teams and political allies. Big-nosed dolphins form the most complex alliances outside of humans, and we wanted to know how they classify these relationships. “

Dr Simon Allen, a researcher at Bristol School of Biological Sciences who contributed to the study, added: “We flew drones over dolphin groups, recording their behavior during the sound reproductions, tracking their movements underwater and revealing new insights into how dolphins respond to the calls of other men in their network of allies. “

Males strongly responded to all allies who had consistently helped them in the past, even if they were not close friends at present. On the other hand, they did not respond strongly to males who had not consistently helped them in the past, even if they were friends. This shows that these dolphins form social concepts of ‘team membership’, classifying allies according to a common collaborative history.

Dr King said: “Such concepts are developed through experience and have probably played a role in the cooperative behavior of early humans. Our results show that collaborative-based concepts are not unique to humans, but also occur in other animal societies with extensive collaboration between non- . -kin. ”


In male dolphin alliances, “everyone knows your name”


Additional information:
Collaboration-based concept formation in male pig ears, Natural Communications, 2021.

Granted by the University of Bristol

Quote: Know your ally: Cooper male dolphins can tell who’s on their team (2021, April 22) retrieved April 22, 2021 from https://phys.org/news/2021-04-ally-cooperative-male-dolphins-team .html

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