Journal of Ethology

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 305-313

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Mother–calf interactions and social behavior development in Commerson’s dolphins (Cephalorhynchus commersonii)

  • Mai SakaiAffiliated withWildlife Research Center, Kyoto UniversityJSPS Email author 
  • , Tadamichi MorisakaAffiliated withWildlife Research Center, Kyoto University
  • , Mari IwasakiAffiliated withTokyo Institute of Technology
  • , Yayoi YoshidaAffiliated withWildlife Research Center, Kyoto University
  • , Ikuo WakabayashiAffiliated withTOBA Aquarium
  • , Atsushi SekoAffiliated withTOBA Aquarium
  • , Masahiko KasamatsuAffiliated withTOBA Aquarium
  • , Shiro KohshimaAffiliated withWildlife Research Center, Kyoto University


Mother–calf interactions and the behaviors of mothers during separation from their calves were examined in four Commerson’s dolphin (Cephalorhynchus commersonii) mother–calf pairs. Four infants were observed: 56.8 h over 30 days from birth to 263 days of age, 36.9 h over 20 days from birth to 149 days of age, 10.4 h over 3 days from birth to 2 days of age, and 15.0 h over 3 days from birth to 2 days of age. All four pairs shared common characteristics in the rate and frequencies of mother–calf interactions and the behaviors of mothers during the first week of life. After the first week, individual differences in changes in the frequency of each behavior were observed. The three behaviors considered representative of maternal care (parallel swimming, synchronous breathing, and body-to-body contact) were frequently performed in the first week; thereafter, the frequencies declined. Separate behaviors of mothers were infrequent during the first week and increased with an increase in infants’ age. Bumping by infants increased with time, suggesting an increase in soliciting by calves and conflict between mothers and calves. The frequency of flipper-to-body rubbing also changed but in a complex manner, probably because the calves needed to learn how to perform this behavior from their mothers and because initiator and recipient of this behavior can be changed quickly.


Commerson’s dolphin Cephalorhynchus commersonii Mother–calf interaction Social behavior Contact behavior Synchrony Behavioral development