Original Article

Animal Cognition

, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp 231-238

First online:

Dolphin pointing is linked to the attentional behavior of a receiver

  • Mark J. XitcoJr.Affiliated withSpace and Naval Warfare Systems Center Email author 
  • , John D. GoryAffiliated withSouthern Methodist University
  • , Stan A. KuczajIIAffiliated withUniversity of Southern Mississippi

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In 2001, Xitco et al. (Anim Cogn 4:115–123) described spontaneous behaviors in two bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) that resembled pointing and gaze alternation. The dolphins’ spontaneous behavior was influenced by the presence of a potential receiver, and the distance between the dolphin and the receiver. The present study adapted the technique of Call and Tomasello [(1994) J Comp Psychol 108:307–317], used with orangutans to test the effect of the receiver’s orientation on pointing in these same dolphins. The dolphins directed more points and monitoring behavior at receivers whose orientation was consistent with attending to the dolphins. The results demonstrated that the dolphins’ pointing and monitoring behavior, like that of apes and infants, was linked to the attentional behavior of the receiver.


Dolphin Pointing Attentional behavior Cognition