Association patterns and community structure among female bottlenose dolphins: environmental, genetic and cultural factors

Svenja M. Marfurt, Simon J. Allen, Manuela R. Bizzozzero, Erik P. Willems, Stephanie L. King, Richard C. Connor, Anna M. Kopps, Sonja Wild, Livia Gerber, Samuel Wittwer, Michael Kruetzen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Social structuring from assortative associations may affect individual fitness, as well as population-level processes. Gaining a broader understanding of social structure can improve our knowledge of social evolution and inform wildlife conservation. We investigated association patterns and community structure of female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in Shark Bay, Western Australia, assessing the role of kinship, shared culturally transmitted foraging techniques, and habitat similarity based on water depth. Our results indicated that associations are influenced by a combination of uni- and biparental relatedness, cultural behaviour and habitat similarity, as these were positively correlated with a measure of dyadic association. These findings were matched in a community level analysis. Members of the same communities overwhelmingly shared the same habitat and foraging techniques, demonstrating a strong homophilic tendency. Both uni- and biparental relatedness between dyads were higher within than between communities. Our results illustrate that intraspecific variation in sociality in bottlenose dolphins is influenced by a complex combination of genetic, cultural, and environmental aspects.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalMammalian Biology
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2022

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