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Male Dolphins Form Alliances And Use Individual Names To Identify Each Other

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Researcher on male and female bottlenose dolphins shows that their names play a role in alliances that are formed between males. Scientists aren't sure how dolphins get their names but they develop signature whistle during their first few months of life.

These names are used by the bottlenose dolphins to maintain their social networks.

Dolphin Names Role In Alliances

Research from 1989 shows that female bottlenose dolphins maintain signature whistles or names for at least 12 years in the wild. This shows the importance of names among the dolphin community. Researchers discovered during a 30-year period studying male bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, that male bottlenose dolphins establish long-lasting partnerships that can last decades.

In a study published in the journal Current Biology, researchers show that bottlenose dolphins used each other signature whistles to tell each other apart. This allowed the dolphins to recognize which dolphins were in their alliances and which dolphins were rivals in their social networks. The different names allowed dolphins to keep track of their different relationships.

At the start of the study, scientists hoped to find out how vocal communication is able to play a role in the coordination of complex social behaviors. They found out that male dolphins used the signature whistles to form and maintain alliances.

Researchers found that male bottlenose dolphins that are in alliances use vocal signatures that were different from their individual names. Each male dolphin will still retain their individual names despite being in the group. This shows that their individual titles are more important than the group call.

Benefits Of Partnerships

Male bottlenose dolphin alliances improve the dolphin's chances of finding and breeding with females. These alliances come in the forms of duos and trios and will sometimes feature larger alliances with other groups of dolphins. This helps the dolphins fulfill their biological role by successfully breeding.

The alliances can be so close that the male dolphins will begin to touch each other. They spend a lot of time caressing each other with their pectoral fins. Researchers used drone footage to capture the dolphins swimming holding their fins on top of each other.

This type of synchrony, in which dolphins act simultaneously such as swimming together, shows that the dolphins are strengthening their bonds. They do this by touching each other and practicing acts like swimming together. The corresponding author on the study Stephanie King says that synchrony has been linked with oxytocin release in humans. Oxytocin promotes trust and cooperation among people.

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