Animal Cognition

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 115–123

Spontaneous pointing by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)


  • Mark J. Xitco
    • Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center, Code D352, CA 92152-5001
  • John D. Gory
    • The Living Seas, Epcot
  • Stan A. Kuczaj
    • Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s100710100107

Cite this article as:
Xitco, M.J., Gory, J.D. & Kuczaj, S.A. Anim.Cogn. (2001) 4: 115. doi:10.1007/s100710100107


Two bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) participating in a symbolic communication project spontaneously developed behaviors that resembled pointing and gaze alternation. The dolphins' behavior demonstrated several features reminiscent of referential communicative behavior. It was triadic, involving a signaler, receiver, and referent. It was also indicative, specifying a focus of attention. The dolphins' points were distinct from the act of attending to or acting on objects. Spontaneous dolphin pointing was influenced by the presence of a potential receiver, and the distance between that receiver and the dolphin. These findings suggest that dolphins are capable of producing referential gestures.

Dolphin Pointing Cognition
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2001