Strategic networking is key to career success–and not just for humans. A study of bottlenose dolphins reveals that young dolphins are strategic in their social networking and devote a lot of time building social connections that could give them an edge later on. In fact, dolphins start their social networking under the age of 10, seeking out peers and activities that could help them forge bonds and build skills they will need in adulthood.
Researchers analyzed nearly 30 years’ worth of records for more than 1,700 wild bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay in Western Australia. The team focused on data collected on youngsters from weaning to age 10, looking at who they hung out with and how they spent their time when no adults were around.
Study results overview
The study revealed that, even though young dolphins flit from group to group as often as every ten minutes throughout the day, they tend to spend more time with a few close friends. These companions aren’t just friends because they share the same areas of water and bump into each other more often. The results showed that these relationships reflect true preferences.
Males prefer to hang out with other males; females with other females. But the researchers observed that males and females tend to interact in different ways. Males were more likely than females to spend their time together resting or engaged in friendly physical contact: rubbing flippers, swimming close together and mirroring each other’s movements. Whereas females socialized less often, and instead spent twice as much time as their male counterparts foraging for fish.
These differences suggest that the social lives of young dolphins may be shaped by the upcoming demands of adulthood…
For adult males, having other males in their corner is key to have a chance at passing on their genes. In Shark Bay, groups of two to three male dolphins often join forces to get fertile females alone with them and coerce them to mate. By the time they grow up, males will need to have enough social savvy to build and maintain strong alliances, or lose out on their chance to get a girl.
Being a successful adult female, on the other hand, means caring for calves that aren’t weaned until they’re at least three years old. Nursing moms need more calories, and so young females may spend more time foraging to practice skills they’ll need later on, before the full realities of motherhood set in.
Young dolphins are very strategic in their social networking choices and behaviors. Like humans, the juvenile period for dolphins is a period where they can make social contacts and important connections and learn the skills that prepare them for success after sexual maturity and adulthood sets in.
Journal Reference: Janet Mann, Céline H Frère, Ewa Krzyszczyk, Vivienne Foroughirad, Allison A Galezo. Juvenile social dynamics reflect adult reproductive strategies in bottlenose dolphins. Behavioral Ecology, 2020; DOI: 10.1093/beheco/araa068
Posted by Geriandi