The social complexity of Shark Bay dolphins is much more human-like than we had imagined

By 23/04/2021 portal-3

La complejidad social de los delfines de Shark Bay se parece mucho más a la humana de lo que habíamos imaginado

In Shark Bay, Western Australia, male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) form a complex hierarchy of social alliances. These alliances show a complexity like almost no other in the animal kingdom, almost comparable to that of humans.

Thus, at the first level, pairs or trios of unrelated males cooperate to raise individual females. Several first-order alliances cooperate in teams (second-order alliances) in searching for and defending females, and several teams also work together (third-order alliances).

Complex social hierarchy

However, It is unknown how dolphins classify these nested alliance relationships.. So in a new study published in Nature, 30 years of behavioral data combined with 40 contemporary sound playback experiments were used for 14 allied males, recording responses with drone-mounted videos.

It was thus shown that males form a first-person social concept of cooperative team membership at the second-order alliance level, regardless of the history of the first-order alliance and the strength of the current relationship at the three levels of alliance. alliance. Such associative concepts develop through experience.

This behavior can help reduce tension between males in a situation that requires them to cooperate successfully. This synchronized and coordinated behavior between allied males may therefore promote cooperative behavior and regulate stress, as has been shown to happen in humans.


These results provide evidence that cooperation-based concepts are not unique to humans., and occur in other animal societies with extensive cooperation between non-kin or nepotistic networks.

It is not the first evidence of the social complexity of these dolphins: Unrelated bottlenose dolphins have been observed teaching yourself a new way to use a tool, a behavior that until now had only been discovered in humans and other great apes. In a practice called "shelling."

Shark Bay, a World Heritage-listed area of Western Australia, is home to an iconic population of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins. Only in this place have these cetaceans been observed using marine sponges, probably to protect their snout while they search for prey in the sand on the ground.

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The social complexity of Shark Bay dolphins is much more human-like than we had imagined

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Xataka Science

Sergio Parra