Vol 8, Issue 1, February 2021

Evidence for Maternal Style Among Adult Female Dolphins When Sharing Pectoral Fin Contacts with Their Calves


Dudzinski, K. M., Ribic, C. A., Manitzas Hill, H. M., & Bolton, T. T. (2021). Evidence for maternal style among adult female dolphins when sharing pectoral fin contacts with their calves. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 8(1), 52-68.  https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Adult bottlenose dolphins share pectoral fin contacts (PFC) to manage their social relationships but less is known about how mothers share PFC with their calves. Using a dataset collected over 16 years, we analyzed how 10 matrilines, including three second generation female dolphins in a maternal role, used PFC with their pre-weaned calves. Mothers had different rates of initiation with their calves forming a continuum from those initiating few contacts (15%) to those initiating more (44%). For mothers with all-aged calves, the lateral side was contacted the most to start interactions with mothers contacting body parts at a similar rate. All mothers assumed the same posture regardless of their role as initiator or receiver, with horizontal the most prevalent posture. Two maternal styles were found for PFC: high and low use of PFC. Within the high PFC group, there was individual variation that was related to calf sex. Even though evidence of maternal style was confirmed in PFC exchanges between adult female dolphins and their calves, the number of PFC shared between these kin was only ~9% of all documented PFC contacts (N = 4,345) over 16 years, suggesting that other forms of tactile contact may be more important within the confines of the mother-offspring relationship in delphinids.


Behavior, Bottlenose dolphins, Mother-calf dyads, Pectoral fin contact, Tactile contact