Laura's PhD research is exploring the fine-scale acoustic and movement behaviour of bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay, Wales. This month Laura and team and deployed 6 Soundtraps and collected 10 eDNA samples across Cardigan Bay. Our network of acoustic recorders will shed important light on bottlenose dolphin space use in Welsh waters. Big thanks to our collaborators at the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre and the University of Aberystwyth and our funders: NERC GW4 DTP and the Defence Infrastructure Organisation.
New publication in Nature Communications: dolphins form social concepts based on cooperative history - watch our video abstract below
We are pleased to share our new paper ‘Cooperation-based concept formation in male bottlenose dolphins’ published in Nature Communications.
In this paper, we combine long-term data with sound playback experiments and drone technology to show that male dolphins form social concepts of ‘team membership’, categorizing allies according to a shared cooperative history.
Abstract: In Shark Bay, Western Australia, male bottlenose dolphins form a complex nested alliance hierarchy. At the first level, pairs or trios of unrelated males cooperate to herd individual females. Multiple first-order alliances cooperate in teams (second-order alliances) in the pursuit and defence of females, and multiple teams also work together (third-order alliances). Yet it remains unknown how dolphins classify these nested alliance relationships. We use 30 years of behavioural data combined with 40 contemporary sound playback experiments to 14 allied males, recording responses with drone-mounted video and a hydrophone array. We show that males form a first-person social concept of cooperative team membership at the second-order alliance level, independently of first-order alliance history and current relationship strength across all three alliance levels. Such associative concepts develop through experience and likely played an important role in the cooperative behaviour of early humans. These results provide evidence that cooperation-based concepts are not unique to humans, occurring in other animal societies with extensive cooperation between non-kin.
Link to paper: https://rdcu.be/cjdS9
Video abstract (with lots of wonderful Shark Bay footage): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1DaP7DLDdM