MOTHER-INFANT SPATIAL RELATIONS IN CAPTIVE BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS, TURSIOPS TRUNCATUS

Authors

  • Cara Gubbins,

    1. Department of Biology, San Francisco State University, 3400 Holloway Road, San Francisco, California 94132, U. S. A. and Marine World Foundation, Marine World Parkway, Vallejo, California 94589, U. S. A. E-mail: cara@scs.unr.edu
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    • 1

      Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada 89557-0015, U. S. A.

  • Brenda Mcowan,

    1. Marine World Foundation, Marine World Parkway, Vallejo, California 94589, U. S. A. and Behavioral Biology, California Primate Research Center, University of California, Davis, California 95616, U. S. A.
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  • Spencer K. Lynn,

    1. Marine World Foundation, Marine World Parkway, Vallejo, CA 94589 Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721, U. S. A.
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  • Stacie Hooper,

    1. Marine World Foundation, Marine World Parkway, Vallejo, California 94589, U. S. A.
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  • Diana Reiss

    1. Marine World Foundation, Marine World Parkway, Vallejo, California 94589, U. S. A.
    2. Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York, U. S. A.
    3. New York Aquarium, Aquarium for Wildlife Conservation, Brooklyn, New York, U. S. A.
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Abstract

The prolonged nursing period and strong, extended mother-infant bond observed among bottlenose dolphins may reflect social and physical ontogeny critical for infant survival. This study was conducted to quantify ontogentic changes in mother-infant contact time and the amount of time infants spent in specific spatial states with their mothers from birth to age 12 mo. These behaviors were studied through a systematic, longitudinal study of six mother-infant pairs of captive bottlenose dolphins from three different social groups. There was a significant decrease in the time infants spent with their mothers (logistic regression, P < 0.001), following the general mammalian pattern of increasing independence with age. When with their mothers, the probability that infants would be found in “echelon” position, flanking the mother, decreased as the calf aged (logistic regression, P <0.001), possibly due to anatomical and hydrodynamic factors. The probability that infants would be found in “infant” position, underneath the mother, increased with calf age (logistic regression, P < 0.001). Results obtained in this study are consistent with similar studies of wild bottlenose dolphin mother-infant pairs, indicating a suite of ontogenetically comparable behaviors between wild and captive bottlenose dolphins.

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