A Comparison of Pectoral Fin Contact Behaviour for Three Distinct Dolphin Populations

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Tactile exchanges involving the pectoral fin have been documented in a variety of dolphin species. Several functions (e.g., social, hygienic) have been offered as possible explanations for when and why dolphins exchange pectoral fin contacts. In this study, we compared pectoral fin contact between dolphin dyads from three distinct dolphin populations: two groups of wild dolphins: Atlantic spotted dolphins (Stenella frontalis) from The Bahamas and Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) from around Mikura Island, Japan; and one group of captive bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) residing at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences, Anthony's Key Resort. A number of similarities were observed between the captive and wild groups, including; rates of pectoral fin contact, which dolphin initiated contact, posture preference, and same-sex rubbing partner preference. Unlike their wild counterparts, however, dolphins in the captive study group engaged in petting and rubbing at equal rates, females were more likely to contact males, males assumed the various rubbing roles more frequently than females, and calves and juveniles were more likely to be involved in pectoral fin contact exchanges. These results suggest that some aspects of pectoral fin contact behaviour might be common to many dolphin species, whereas other aspects could be species specific, or could be the result of differing environmental and social conditions. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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Behavioural Processes





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