1987, pp 247-305

The Social Structure of Free-Ranging Bottlenose Dolphins

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Abstract

A description of the social structure of a species is a first step toward understanding its social organization and, ultimately, the evolutionary processes that shaped its social system. Since the mid-1960s the rapid accumulation of information from field studies of terrestrial mammals has made it possible to propose models to explain the evolution of mammalian social systems. These models have examined the species distribution of characteristics such as group size, group compositions, spatial patterns of individuals, and social interactions in relation to environmental variables (for example, Crook and Gartlan, 1966; Eisenberg et al., 1972; Clutton-Brock, 1974; Jarman, 1974; Emlen and Oring, 1977; Wrangham, 1980). Predictable patterns of organization have been found which provide insights into the adaptive significance of the social systems. Until recently, available information for cetaceans has been inadequate to allow construction of comparable models. A surge of systematic field studies of the behavior and ecology of cetaceans is beginning to provide the requisite information for examination of cetacean societies within a general mammalian context. To this end, this chapter presents the results of one study of the social structure of the bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus.