Dolphins cultivate loose alliances
Dolphins behave uniquely. On the one hand, male dolphins form alliances with others; on the other hand, they live in an open social structure. Anthropologists from the University of Zurich detected this unusual behavior in the animal kingdom in dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia.
Male dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, display the most complex group behavior of all mammals after us humans. Studies in the 1990s revealed that two to three male dolphins cooperate very closely with each other to isolate female dolphins from the main group for mating. Sometimes, these so-called “first-order” alliances join forces to steal females that have been monopolized by other alliances. To a degree, however, this higher-level bond among males is highly opportunistic and can change depending on the context. The formation of alliances in dolphins is only comparable with that of humans in terms of complexity.
A new study by researchers from the USA, Australia and Michael Krützen from the University of Zurich’s Anthropological Institute & Museum now proves that these male alliances are based on an open social structure. Dolphins have multifaceted relationships with other individuals within a complex network without an obvious group structure, placing them almost on a par with us humans.