The Role of Touch in Select Social Interactions of Atlantic Spotted Dolphin (Stenella frontalis) and Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops aduncus)

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In this descriptive study, the potentially communicative functions of non-vocal behaviors produced by two species of dolphin, Atlantic spotted (Stenella frontalis) and Indo-Pacific bottlenose (Tursiops aduncus), were examined in the context of three focal events: depart (one or more dolphins depart company of others), join (two or more dolphins come together), and contact (dolphin makes contact with another using a part of its body). These particular events were chosen because they involve interactions between dolphins and so provide an opportunity to examine possible precursors or antecedents to specific social behaviors. Non-vocal behaviors occurring before and/or after these focal events were documented and analyzed in an attempt to determine if certain behaviors were consistently associated with the departure (depart) or arrival (join) of another dolphin, or with physical contact (contact) between dolphins in each species. Touch behaviors were found to be significantly related to each of the three focal events so were examined in further detail. Overall, in comparing species, the Indo-Pacific bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins in this descriptive study exhibited more similarities than differences in their use of touch behaviors in potentially communicative situations across five broad behavioral contexts. However, a difference in the use of touch behaviors produced before departing or after joining a conspecific was noted. Specifically, the spotted dolphins were more likely to use contact after joining than before departing, whereas the bottlenose dolphins were equally likely to use contact in both situations.

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Journal of Ethology





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