Date of Award

Summer 8-2017

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

David J. Echevarria

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Richard S. Mohn

Committee Member 2 Department


Committee Member 3

Heather M Hill

Committee Member 3 Department



Many comparative studies have focused on the emergence of solitary and social play in early development. However, few consider observer and parallel forms of solitary play. In this study, use of video analysis revealed that there is a significant difference between the frequency of solitary, observer, parallel, and social object play states, in calf, juvenile, subadult, and adult bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). While juveniles engaged in solitary play significantly more than any other age group, both juveniles and calves engaged in observer and social play significantly more than adults and subadults. Within their own age group, calves, juveniles, and subadults all showed a significant preference for solitary play. Preferences for play partners spanned across related or unrelated calves, juveniles, subadults, and adults. Calves preferred to play with juveniles, while juveniles preferred to play with both calves and juveniles. Juveniles preferred to play with calves during social play and with other juveniles during observer play. Calves and juveniles preferred unrelated partners. Similarly, calves and juveniles preferred to play with unrelated partners during observer play. Together, these results have implications for social learning and the transmission of behavior through observational play. With this knowledge, we can provide the appropriate social environment to captive individuals with limited or constrained social availability, increasing learning opportunities, so that individuals may develop more diverse behavioral repertoires while decreasing behavioral deficits.