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Inter-group alliance dynamics in Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus)


Friedman, Whitney R; Krützen, Michael; King, Stephanie L; Allen, Simon J; Gerber, Livia; Wittwer, Samuel; Connor, Richard C (2023). Inter-group alliance dynamics in Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). Animal Cognition, 26(5):1601-1612.

Abstract

The social intelligence hypothesis holds that complex social relationships are the major selective force underlying the evolution of large brain size and intelligence. Complex social relationships are exemplified by coalitions and alliances that are mediated by affiliative behavior, resulting in differentiated but shifting relationships. Male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, form three alliance levels or ‘orders’, primarily among non-relatives. Strategic alliance formation has been documented within both first- and second-order alliances and between second-order alliances (‘third-order alliances’), revealing that the formation of strategic inter-group alliances is not limited to humans. Here we conducted a fine-scale study on 22 adult males over a 6-year period to determine if third-order alliance relationships are differentiated, and mediated by affiliative interactions. We found third-order alliance relationships were strongly differentiated, with key individuals playing a disproportionate role in maintaining alliances. Nonetheless, affiliative interactions occurred broadly between third-order allies, indicating males maintain bonds with third-order allies of varying strength. We also documented a shift in relationships and formation of a new third-order alliance. These findings further our understanding of dolphin alliance dynamics and provide evidence that strategic alliance formation is found in all three alliance levels, a phenomenon with no peer among non-human animals.

Abstract

The social intelligence hypothesis holds that complex social relationships are the major selective force underlying the evolution of large brain size and intelligence. Complex social relationships are exemplified by coalitions and alliances that are mediated by affiliative behavior, resulting in differentiated but shifting relationships. Male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, form three alliance levels or ‘orders’, primarily among non-relatives. Strategic alliance formation has been documented within both first- and second-order alliances and between second-order alliances (‘third-order alliances’), revealing that the formation of strategic inter-group alliances is not limited to humans. Here we conducted a fine-scale study on 22 adult males over a 6-year period to determine if third-order alliance relationships are differentiated, and mediated by affiliative interactions. We found third-order alliance relationships were strongly differentiated, with key individuals playing a disproportionate role in maintaining alliances. Nonetheless, affiliative interactions occurred broadly between third-order allies, indicating males maintain bonds with third-order allies of varying strength. We also documented a shift in relationships and formation of a new third-order alliance. These findings further our understanding of dolphin alliance dynamics and provide evidence that strategic alliance formation is found in all three alliance levels, a phenomenon with no peer among non-human animals.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Department of Evolutionary Anthropology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Scopus Subject Areas:Life Sciences > Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Experimental and Cognitive Psychology, Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
Language:English
Date:1 September 2023
Deposited On:24 Jan 2024 11:25
Last Modified:31 Mar 2024 01:38
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1435-9448
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10071-023-01804-y
PubMed ID:37391478
Project Information:
  • : FunderUniversität Zürich
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  • : FunderThe Dolphin Alliance Project, Inc
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  • : FunderMerle-Smith Graduate Fellowship in Anthropogeny, UC San Diego
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  • : FunderGlushko-Samuelson Fellowship in Cognitive Science, UC San Diego
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  • : FunderDean of Social Science Fellowship, UC San Diego
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  • : FunderA.H. Schultz Foundation
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  • : FunderClaraz Schenkung
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  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)