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Affiliation history and age similarity predict alliance formation in adult male bottlenose dolphins


Gerber, Livia; Connor, Richard C; King, Stephanie L; Allen, Simon J; Wittwer, Samuel; Bizzozzero, Manuela R; Friedman, Whitney R; Kalberer, Stephanie; Sherwin, William B; Wild, Sonja; Willems, Erik P; Krützen, Michael (2020). Affiliation history and age similarity predict alliance formation in adult male bottlenose dolphins. Behavioral Ecology, 31(2):361-370.

Abstract

Male alliances are an intriguing phenomenon in the context of reproduction since, in most taxa, males compete over an indivisible resource, female fertilization. Adult male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in Shark Bay, Western Australia, form long-term, multilevel alliances to sequester estrus females. These alliances are therefore critical to male reproductive success. Yet, the long-term processes leading to the formation of such complex social bonds are still poorly understood. To identify the criteria by which male dolphins form social bonds with other males, we adopted a long-term approach by investigating the ontogeny of alliance formation. We followed the individual careers of 59 males for 14 years while they transitioned from adolescence (8–14 years of age) to adulthood (15–21 years old). Analyzing their genetic relationships and social associations in both age groups, we found that the vast majority of social bonds present in adolescence persisted through time. Male associations in early life predict alliance partners as adults. Kinship patterns explained associations during adolescence but not during adulthood. Instead, adult males associated with males of similar age. Our findings suggest that social bonds among peers, rather than kinship, play a central role in the development of adult male polyadic cooperation in dolphins.

Abstract

Male alliances are an intriguing phenomenon in the context of reproduction since, in most taxa, males compete over an indivisible resource, female fertilization. Adult male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in Shark Bay, Western Australia, form long-term, multilevel alliances to sequester estrus females. These alliances are therefore critical to male reproductive success. Yet, the long-term processes leading to the formation of such complex social bonds are still poorly understood. To identify the criteria by which male dolphins form social bonds with other males, we adopted a long-term approach by investigating the ontogeny of alliance formation. We followed the individual careers of 59 males for 14 years while they transitioned from adolescence (8–14 years of age) to adulthood (15–21 years old). Analyzing their genetic relationships and social associations in both age groups, we found that the vast majority of social bonds present in adolescence persisted through time. Male associations in early life predict alliance partners as adults. Kinship patterns explained associations during adolescence but not during adulthood. Instead, adult males associated with males of similar age. Our findings suggest that social bonds among peers, rather than kinship, play a central role in the development of adult male polyadic cooperation in dolphins.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Animal Science and Zoology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:20 March 2020
Deposited On:13 Feb 2020 15:30
Last Modified:21 Mar 2020 02:06
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:1045-2249
OA Status:Closed
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/arz195
Project Information:
  • : FunderSNSF
  • : Grant ID31003A_149956
  • : Project TitleMale career moves - the genomics of cooperative behaviour and alliance formation in male bottlenose dolphins

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