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A new approach to the study of relationship quality in dolphins: framework and preliminary results

January 1, 2020

Proximity and synchronous behaviours from surface observations have been used to measure association patterns within and between dolphin dyads. To facilitate an investigation of relationship quality in dolphins, we applied a method used for chimpanzees and ravens that examined three main components to describe relationships: value, security, and compatibility. Using pilot data from a long-term study of two study populations for this preliminary assessment, these three components were extracted from PCA analysis of eight behavioural variables with more than 80% variance accounted for in both study groups. Only pair swim position differed between groups. Although value, security, and compatibility are abstract terms, each is based on behaviours identified as important in dolphin social life, at least for these two populations. Examining relationship quality in dolphins with a method used to illustrate dyadic differences for chimpanzees and ravens allows for a quantitative, comparative assessment of sociality across disparate taxa. Although these three species are diverse in their anatomies and in their social habitats (e.g., aquatic, terrestrial, aerial), they may well share the basic societal building blocks in the factors affecting how relationships are formed. We discuss how an examination of these behavioural variables facilitates understanding relationship quality in dolphins, as well as how dolphin relationships fit into the context of social animals’ society.

Publication Year 2020
Title A new approach to the study of relationship quality in dolphins: framework and preliminary results
DOI 10.1016/j.beproc.2020.104260
Authors Manon Themelin, Christine Ribic, Kel Melillo-Sweeting, Teri Bolton, Kathleen M. Dudzinski
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Behavioural Processes
Index ID 70228586
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown