Dolphins Know How to Stay in Touch!

Study shows that social bonds play a strong role in the way dolphins communicate.

Dolphins Know How to Stay in Touch! | Study shows that social bonds play a strong role in the way dolphins communicate.

Dolphins communicate by whistling to one another across long distances. But this sea mammal communication is more than just chatting. New research suggests that dolphins who have the strongest social bonds have more offspring.

Dolphins are the only other mammals that have the vocalization skills that are required for language and this could explain why they are able to communicate with one another, reported Science. Every dolphin has its own whistle that they learned from their mothers and that is how they are identified by others.

Researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the University of Western Australia  studied the tight bonds that male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins share and found that those who whistle and communicate more have stronger bonds. And this helps them in a very big way, Dolphins with stronger bonds father more calves.

Research into social bonding
The study, recently published in Current Biology, hypothesized that the whistling, or vocal interactions played an important role in social bonding.  In the study, according to Science, Livia Gerber, an evolutionary biologist at UNSW and colleagues, used 30-years of data that was collected about male dolphin behavior, in Shark Bay off the coast of Western Australia, to identify which ones were the most popular.

The researchers determined byusing DNA that the males who had the strongest social bonds with other males, actually had the most offspring. That means that shy males stand very little chance in reproducing.

“Maybe the odd male produces offspring, but it’s hardly ever happened. So, these social bonds are actually crucial for a male to reproduce.” Gerber told the Sydney Sun.

But she questioned why, “If they’re really staying together, and they invest so much time and energy in finding their friends and spending time with other males, there must be something in there that benefits them.”

The researchers, the Sydney Sun reported, concluded that the well-connected males shared crucial information on food and were potentially able to protect their mates.

This research challenged existing beliefs
The research not only discovered this aspect of dolphin society, it also challenged Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” theory.

“For so long, biologists have always been thinking it’s the strongest male that gets all of the fraternities. And now what we’re actually seeing is, it doesn’t need to be the strongest, it can also be the most popular ones,” Gerber said.

Dolphins' use of language and social bonding shows that humans are not alone when it comes to chatting with friends. Who knows what scientists will discover next about these intelligent and endangered marine mammals?

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