Date of Award

Spring 5-2017

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis


Biological Sciences

First Advisor

David Echevarria

Advisor Department



Behaviors related to play are positively reinforcing as they promote the continued exhibition of play behaviors in a variety of animal species. Play in animals is thought to contribute to the development and practice of skills animals require across their lifespan (i.e., foraging, mating, etc.). In bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), several categories of play can be observed such as solitary play, social play, locomotor play, predatory play, and object play. The aim of the present study was to observe how variables of age-class, sex, object type, and play sociality influenced dolphin object play by utilizing video data from a semi-captive bottlenose dolphin population at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences. Results from this study were consistent with the hypothesis that juveniles would play the most of any age group. Females and males showed no significant difference in time spent playing with objects. The dolphins played with seaweed most often, and their play sociality included human-facilitated play more than social or solitary play. The results of this study show that further research needs to be done on dolphins in order to better understand their play habits. This research is important in areas of species conservation, wildlife management, and bringing awareness to the public of animals and their complex needs.

Included in

Psychology Commons