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Conflict and reconciliation behavior trends of the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)


  • Anastasia Holobinko,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Anthropology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
    2. Department of Zoology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
    • Department of Anthropology, Faner Hall, Room 3525, Mail Code 4502, Southern Illinois University Carbondale, 1000 Faner Drive, Carbondale, IL 62901
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  • George H. Waring

    1. Department of Zoology, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois
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Wild bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) populations display societal structures characterized by numerous and frequent changes in group composition, complex social relationships, and high levels of cooperation, attributes also observed in human and nonhuman primate cultures. Maintaining social relationships under such elemental conditions can frequently create conflict—and the opportunity for reconciliation—among group members. The conflict and reconciliation behavior patterns of the chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) have been studied extensively; trends are well-documented in the wild and in captivity. Apparent cultural similarities have prompted several analogous studies on wild and captive bottlenose dolphins. This research attempted to corroborate previous efforts by analyzing the social behavior of seven captive bottlenose dolphins to determine the effects of sex and age on the frequency of conflict and reconciliation, and to investigate the incidence of consolatory behavior within the group. A total of 3,428 interactions involving focal animals, 414 of which were conflict episodes, were documented during 261 hr of videotaped observations. Although the sample size precluded meaningful statistical evaluation of the influence of sex on conflict and reconciliation, participant age was a significant determinant of conflict frequency. Conversely, age did not impact frequency of reconciliation, which only occurred after 18% of all conflict interactions. Little to no definitive evidence of consolation was apparent within the study group. While results partially support the findings of previous dolphin reconciliation research, extensive behavioral studies of wild populations should be conducted before generating broad comparisons between human terms and nonhuman behavioral interactions. Zoo Biol 29:567–585, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.