Cognitive enrichment device provides evidence for intersexual differences in collaborative actions in Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus)

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Eszter Matrai, Shaw Ting Kwok, Michael Boos, Ákos Pogány
Animal Cognition
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Social living, long lifespan and advanced cognitive skills provided favourable conditions for the development of pro-social behaviours and cooperative activities in cetacean. Dolphins have been observed to collaborate for various purposes, finding food, finding mates or raising and teaching younger individuals. This study investigated the potential impact of demographic factors (sex and age), social factors (relatedness and group size), and individual experience in a cooperative problem solving task. A cognitive enrichment device was tested with 22 dolphins in 11 group settings. The device consisted of a tube, containing ice and fish, sealed by two caps with rope handles and designed to be operated by pairs of dolphins. The investigation focused on the differences in trial outcome (success rate of cooperative opening of the device) and on cooperative play (dolphin pairs engaging in synchronous swim with the device). From the five potential factors, sex showed the highest impact. Cooperative openings were more than four times more frequent in males than in females (75% vs 17%, respectively), and cooperative play was exclusively displayed by adult males. Given the strong correlation between cooperative opening and cooperative play, we argue the two behaviours can be regarded as parts of a cooperative action chain. This study provides the first evidence for intersexual differences in collaborative actions in dolphins under systematic testing conditions.


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