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Dolphins form a cooperation-based concept of team membership

28.04.2021 15:59

According to new findings by Branco Weiss Alumna Stephanie King and her group of researchers at the University of Bristol, the University of Zurich and the University of Massachusetts, male dolphins form a social concept of team membership based on cooperative investment in the team – or in other words: When it comes to friendships and rivalries, male dolphins know who the good team players are.

The researchers used sound playback experiments to assess how male dolphins responded to the calls of other males from their alliance network. Drones flying above the dolphin groups recorded the behavior of the marine mammals during the sound playbacks. Males responded strongly to all of the allies that had consistently helped them out in the past but didn’t do so to those who hadn’t – even if they were friends. This shows that these dolphins form social concepts of ‘team membership’, categorizing allies according to a shared cooperative history.

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

Nature Communications has just published the paper called “Cooperation-based concept formation in male bottlenose dolphins”.

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Read the paper in Nature Communications