Date of Award

Fall 12-2018

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Lucas Keefer

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Kathleen Dudzinski

Committee Member 3

Richard Mohn

Committee Member 3 School



Contact with the pectoral fin facilitates formation and maintenance of social relationships between dolphins (Dudzinski & Ribic, 2017). Additionally, several studies have shown that bottlenose dolphins have distinct personalities that are consistent across time and situation (e.g., Highfill & Kuczaj, 2007; Kuczaj, Highfill, & Byerly, 2012), and it has been suggested that these individual differences (i.e., personality) may influence tactile behavior exchanges. The current study therefore aimed to determine if bottlenose dolphin personality traits predict whether and how dolphins initiate contact as a rubber or rubbee during pectoral fin contact exchanges, and to identify whether the effects of personality traits predicting initiator role varied across sex and age-class. Instances of pectoral fin contacts were selected from previously recorded underwater video observations of a bottlenose dolphin group under human care at the Roatan Institute for Marine Sciences (RIMS) between 2014 and 2017. Personality assessments were conducted by experienced trainers for dolphins using rating questionnaires that reflected the personality traits from the Five-Factor Model (i.e., Extraversion, Agreeableness, Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, and Neuroticism; Goldberg, 1990). Multiple regression analyses suggested that personality traits do not fully predict initiator role; however, Conscientiousness and its interactions with sex and age may be important. Loglinear analyses showed Agreeableness affected the area of the body that was contacted when a rubbee initiated pectoral fin contact. This study demonstrates a first look at how personality influences the initiator side of pectoral fin contact exchange in bottlenose dolphins.