Activity, Social Relationships, and Maternal Care in a Bottlenose Dolphin Group under Professional Care

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Lisa K Lauderdale, Lance J Miller
Journal of Zoological and Botanical Gardens
, , , , , ,

Defining the activity patterns and social relationships of animals can provide valuable information related to animal welfare. Bottlenose dolphins under professional care engage in a variety of social and solitary activities, which may be influenced by conspecifics, time of day, and maternal behaviors. This study examined the social, solitary, and maternal behaviors of eight dolphins at one zoological facility. Data about social and solitary behaviors, nursing occurrences, and mother–calf pair swimming were collected five days per week over a ten-month period. The simple ratio index was used to calculate association rates for all dyads. Affiliative behaviors were the dominant behavior class and all behavior categories and swim states showed temporal oscillations throughout the day. The high association values within the mother–calf dyads suggested these ties remain strong through the second and third years of life. Preferred associates remained the same for some individuals in both social group compositions, while they differed for others. However, no large reductions in associations were recorded, suggesting strong relationships in the subgroups continued when other individuals were present. Examining sociality and activity levels may be a useful tool in continuing to improve welfare as they may be related to social groupings and environmental factors.


Back to Resources