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Dolphins use individual names to form complex alliances

12.06.2018 10:47

Male bottlenose dolphins use individual vocal labels or “names” to identify their friends and rivals, says Branco Weiss Fellow Stephanie King. Being lead researcher and first author on a Current Biology paper, her most recent findings made headlines across the globe. She and her collaborators found out that rather than sharing an alliance specific label, the male bottlenose dolphins they are studying in Western Australia use individual vocal labels, which allow male dolphins to track cooperative partners and competitors in complex biological markets.

Previous research has shown the dolphins’ vocal labels are similar to human names, and are used to introduce themselves to others or address specific individuals. Male dolphins also used physical displays to show off the strength of their relationships. “This included petting, stroking and performing synchronous behaviours,” said Stephanie. She thinks the next step would be to study the males’ relationships with one another more closely to understand the politics of dolphin alliances and if all cooperative relationships are equal or not. The study was conducted by scientists from the University of Western Australia, University of Zurich, University of Massachusetts and Aarhus University.

Paper in Current Biology

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