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Male dolphins have ‘wingmen’ to help them court individual females, study shows

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Dolphins have ‘wingmen’ just like humans! Study shows men team up to court women and increase their chances of procreating

  • Male bottlenose dolphins form tactical alliances to court females together
  • Some alliances also work together as larger groups, forming a multi-level society
  • It used to be thought that strategic collaboration was unique to humans
  • Due to their bonds, the male dolphins have more time to seduce their partner

It turns out that hiring a ‘wingman’ to help you find a mate isn’t just reserved for Ocean nightclub – dolphins use the same technique in the deep blue itself!

Male bottlenose dolphins appear to form tactical alliances with other males, who will then compete together against rival alliances for access to females.

A research team led by the University of Bristol studied the marine mammals and found that they form more alliances than any other species.

They also found that different groups of allied dolphins will work together, allowing males to spend more time with the females they chase, resulting in the long-term benefit of reproductive success.

Co-lead author Dr. Stephanie King said: “Our work emphasizes that dolphin societies, as well as those of non-human primates, are valuable model systems for understanding human social and cognitive evolution.”

Male bottlenose dolphins appear to form tactical alliances with other males, who will then compete together against rival alliances for access to females. Pictured are six allied men with a female partner

The researchers from the UK, US and Switzerland observed 121 adult male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia.  Pictured are four male allies and a female

The researchers from the UK, US and Switzerland observed 121 adult male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia. Pictured are four male allies and a female

People make tactical partnerships within international trade, military, family unit and many other situations.

“Collaboration between allies is widespread in human societies and one of the hallmarks of our success,” said Dr. king.

Our ability to do this was once thought to differentiate us from our chimpanzee ancestors, and was born from the evolution of pair bonds and males caring as parents.

However, a study published today in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that shared childcare is not essential for team building in nature.

Study co-lead author Professor Richard Connor, of the University of Massachusetts, said: “Our results show that alliances between groups can emerge without these characteristics, from a social and mating system more similar to chimpanzees.”

Not only did the scientists see male dolphins working together, but the alliances forming as part of a three-tier society.  Pictured is a trio of men with a woman

Not only did the scientists see male dolphins working together, but the alliances forming as part of a three-tier society. Pictured is a trio of men with a woman

MALE DOLPHINS WHISPER TO EACH OTHER TO FORM ALLIANCES

Experts at the University of Bristol found that dolphins whistle at each other as part of a male bonding ritual.

It is a less time consuming way to maintain weaker alliances than other physical bonding activities such as patting and rubbing.

This is an important interaction to maintain as groups grow and competition for resources increases.

The researchers from the UK, US and Switzerland observed 121 adult male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia.

They witnessed not only male dolphins working together, but the alliances forming as part of a three-tier society.

First-order alliances are formed between a male dolphin and two or three other individuals who court the female together, steal them from other alliances or defend them from attacks.

Some first-order alliances then work together to form second-order alliances, creating groups of four to fourteen cooperating dolphins.

These then compete with other second-order alliances over access to female dolphins, or join forces again to forge third-order alliances.

The strategic groups allow individuals to spend a longer time with potential partners, as opposed to in competition.

dr. King added: ‘Not only have we shown that male bottlenose dolphins form the largest known multi-level alliance network outside of humans, but that inter-group cooperative relationships, rather than just alliance size, allow males to spend more time with females,’ thus their reproductive success.’

dr. Simon Allen, senior lecturer at Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences, added: ‘We show that the duration for which these teams of male dolphins accompany females depends on good ties with third-order allies, i.e. social ties between alliances. leads to long-term benefits for these men.

The research has shed light on how to acquire character traits previously thought of as uniquely human.

Dolphins have regional accents influenced by where they live, study finds

Dolphins’ distinctive whistles are influenced by where they live — just like regional accents in humans, a new study has found.

Bottlenose dolphins have distinctive whistles that they use to identify each other. These sounds are unique to each animal.

However, the new study found that the acoustic characteristics of each dolphin’s whistles are influenced by the local habitat and community.

The team says the local ocean environment — such as areas of seagrass or muddy seabeds — played a much bigger role in these whistles than genetics.

Read more here

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