Vol 8, Issue 3, August 2021

Bottlenose Dolphin Calf Initiated Pectoral Fin Contact Exchanges with Mother, Other Kin, and Non-Kin


Dudzinski, K. M., Ribic, C. A., Manitzas Hill, H. M., & Bolton, T. T. (2021). Bottlenose dolphin calf initiated pectoral fin contact exchanges with mother, other kin, and non-kin. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 8(3), 376-390. https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


For dolphins, the strongest bond documented is typically that between a mother and her pre-weaned offspring, but outside of the maternal relationship, our knowledge of calf behavior is limited. We examined how 23 bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) calves (11 females and 12 males from 9 matrilines) initiated pectoral fin contact (PFC) exchanges with their mothers and kin (n = 362) versus with non-kin (n = 950). Calves initiated PFC exchanges with preferred partners (primarily their mothers) over individuals who were simply available to them. For calves with mothers as their only kin available, there was a difference in how they shared PFC with non-kin adults versus non-kin young. A calf was twice as likely to initiate PFC with an adult (mother or adult non-kin) as with another young dolphin. Male and female calves were different in how they initiated PFC with kin and non-kin, which supports previous research that identified a sex difference in calf behavior. These results support the observation that kin and non-kin dolphins share PFC differently. It is also likely that kin (mothers and calves, siblings, etc.) use other forms of contact to share information and potentially develop their relationships. Understanding all types of tactile contact would facilitate a more detailed understanding of how touch might be used by dolphins when relationships are established and maintained.


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