Date of Award

5-2017

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

David Echevarria, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Psychology

Abstract

In group-living species, an individual’s response to aggression from another animal can reveal information about the complexities of their social relationships. The current study sought to categorize behavioral responses between conspecifics following direct aggression. Agonistic behavioral interactions were analyzed in a semi-captive group of bottlenose dolphins housed at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences, whose population dynamics mirror those observed in the wild. Interactions began at the onset of an aggressive behavior, and all concomitant behaviors between aggressor(s) and recipient(s) were coded chronologically for the length of each event. Results revealed five response types present following aggression: retaliation, reconciliation, avoidance, sexual, or no reaction. Response type varied based upon age-class, sex, and initiator/recipient role in the initial aggression. Specifically, subadults were more likely to be involved in retaliation than other age-classes. Calves were more likely to respond through reconciliation, avoidance, or had no reaction during conflicts, possibly due to mother-calf relationships (i.e., alloparenting, discipline, and protection). Additionally, males were more likely to retaliate, while females tended to avoid or reconcile with opponents, which is a reflection of the sex specific reproductive pressures observed in fission-fusion groups. Understanding behavioral pressures on demographic and social roles in aggressive interactions may aid management practices for both captive and wild populations.

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