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Bottlenose dolphins form social network "Gangs"

By Shane Graber - Posted Mar 30, 2012 10:00 AM
A recent study of bottlenose dolphin behavior has led to a surprise discovery: bottlenose dolphin social behavior is even more complex than we once thought. Males of the species will form intricate gang-like groups for protecting females and will switch sides when need presents itself.
Bottlenose dolphins form social network "Gangs"

Bottlenose dolphins socializing in New Zealand. Photo by Jason Pratt / Flickr.

This finding to date has only been found in humans and in Shark Bay bottlenose dolphins and was reported recently in the journal Proceedings of the Royal B Society.

In a nutshell, what Dr. Connor and others found was that male bottlenose dolphins of Shark Bay, Australia are highly complex in their social behavior. Over the five year period that these dolphins were studied, the researchers observed a myriad of different social behaviors and interactions especially with the males as their ranges highly overlap with other bottlenose dolphin pods.  When new pods meet, each member of the group needs to know how to respond appropriately.

What the Connor and others found was that the bottlenose dolphins interact at least three different ways:

  1. Pairs and trios herd and capture females.
  2. Multiple dolphins ranging from 4-14 animals form "alliances" to attack other pods and take their females or to defend against other groups of marauding males after their females.
  3. Multiple large groups of dolphins forming dolphin "armies" to fend off large groups of opposing dolphin clans.

According to Dr. Connor, it takes very high intelligence in an animal species to be able to navigate the different social interactions that are required to maintain this sort of society.

(via BBC)

Author: Shane Graber
Location: Indiana

Shane has kept saltwater tanks for the last 12 years, is a research scientist, lives in northern Indiana, and is a proud Advanced Aquarist staffer.


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