We (Bristol and Zürich research groups) are lucky enough to have two papers out in Current Biology this week on bottlenose dolphin social complexity.
In the first paper, led by Bristol MSc student Emma Chereskin, we show that vocal exchanges can function as a replacement of physical bonding in dolphin alliances. This is the first evidence for Robin Dunbar's social bonding hypothesis outside of the primate lineage:
Chereskin E, Connor RC, Friedman WR, Jensen FH, Allen SJ, Sørensen PM, Krützen M, King SL (2022). Allied male dolphins use vocal exchanges to ‘bond-at-a-distance’. Current Biology https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.02.019
In the second paper, led by Zürich PhD graduate Livia Gerber, we show that that ‘popular’ allied male dolphins enjoy higher reproductive success:
Gerber L, Connor RC, Allen SJ, Horlacher K, King SL, Sherwin WB, Willems E, Wittwer S, Krützen M (2022). Social integration influences fitness in allied male dolphins. Current Biology. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2022.03.027
A selection of press coverage below:
The Independent: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/university-of-bristol-shark-bay-bristol-b2043243.html
Daily Mail: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-10648125/Dolphins-whistle-male-bonding-ritual.html
Huge congratulations to Danai for being awarded a #MSCA postdoctoral fellowship to explore the epigenetic drivers of inter-individual variation in male dolphin synchrony and the associated fitness consequences. This is a big collaboration with our Cetacean CommCog group at the University of Bristol and the Evolutionary Genetics group at the University of Zürich led by Prof. Michael Krützen. We look forward to welcoming Danai to the team in April 2023.
Stephanie is thrilled to have been awarded a #HFSP Research Grant with Dr Andrea Ravignani (Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Netherlands), Prof Peter Madsen (Aarhus University, Denmark) and Dr Peter Cook (New College Florida, USA). The project is on the ‘The Social Origins of Rhythm’ and, using data from > 30 marine mammal species, it will integrate approaches from field biology, comparative neuroscience, artificial intelligence, and speech sciences to test competing hypotheses on the evolutionary roots of the social use of vocal rhythm. The team have been awarded $1.44 million USD over three years.
We just returned from our first Shark Bay Dolphin Research retreat in Mürren, Switzerland where PhD students from the University of Bristol, University of Western Australia and the University of Zürich got to present their work and we all planned the 2022 field season. It was a fantastic trip - both in terms of sharing results and team bonding!