Vol 8, Issue 1, February 2021

Aggressive Behaviors of Adult Male Atlantic Spotted Dolphins: Making Signals Count during Intraspecific and Interspecific Conflicts


Volker, C. L., & Herzing, D. L. (2021). Aggressive behaviors of adult male Atlantic spotted dolphins: Making signals count during intraspecific and interspecific conflicts. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 8(1), 36-51. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Some species exhibit behavioral plasticity by altering their aggressive behavior based on their opponent. Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) and bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) are two sympatric species resident to the northern Bahamas. We examined whether groups of adult male spotted dolphins demonstrated behavioral plasticity during two different types of aggressive interactions. We described and compared the types of aggressive behaviors used during intraspecific aggression and interspecific aggression with bottlenose dolphins. Between the years 1991-2004, twenty-two aggressive encounters (11 intraspecific (spotted only), 11 interspecific (spotted vs. bottlenose)) were behaviorally analyzed. Twenty-three specific aggressive Behavioral Events, further grouped into three Behavioral Types, were examined throughout these encounters. Similarities and differences in the use of the Behavioral Types occurred during intra- and interspecific aggression. Groups of male Atlantic spotted dolphins altered their behavior during aggressive encounters with male bottlenose dolphins. Spotted dolphins increased their use of the Pursuit Behavioral Type and did not use the Display Behavioral Type significantly more than the Contact Behavioral Type during interspecific aggression. The increased use of a more overt and energy intensive Behavioral Type, Pursuit, suggests that Atlantic spotted dolphins altered their behavior during aggressive encounters with bottlenose dolphins to compensate during fights with a larger species and/or to effectively communicate with a different species.


Sympatric, Stenella frontalis, Tursiops, spotted dolphin, aggression, Bahamas