Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 61, Issue 1, pp 109–117 | Cite as

Association patterns and kinship in female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) of southeastern Australia

  • Luciana M. Möller
  • Luciano B. Beheregaray
  • Simon J. Allen
  • Robert G. Harcourt
Original Article


Kinship has been shown to be an important correlate of group membership and associations among many female mammals. In this study, we investigate association patterns in female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) inhabiting an embayment in southeastern Australia. We combine the behavioral data with microsatellite DNA and mitochondrial DNA data to test the hypotheses that genetic relatedness and maternal kinship correlate with associations and social clusters. Mean association between females was not significantly different from a random mean, but the standard deviation was significantly higher than a random standard deviation, indicating the presence of nonrandom associates in the dataset. A neighbor-joining tree, based on the distance of associations between females, identified four main social clusters in the area. Mean genetic relatedness between pairs of frequent female associates was significantly higher than that between pairs of infrequent associates. There was also a significant correlation between mtDNA haplotype sharing and the degree of female association. However, the mean genetic relatedness of female pairs within and between social clusters and the proportion of female pairs with the same and different mtDNA haplotypes within and between clusters were not significantly different. This study demonstrates that kinship correlates with associations among female bottlenose dolphins, but that kinship relations are not necessarily a prerequisite for membership in social clusters. We hypothesize that different forces acting on female bottlenose dolphin sociality appear to promote the formation of flexible groups which include both kin and nonkin.


Female associations Kinship Bottlenose dolphins Microsatellites Mitochondrial DNA Tursiops aduncus Mammals 



Funding was provided by the Graduate School of the Environment, Macquarie University, the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Australian Geographic, and the Linnean Society of New South Wales. D. Cooper and D. Briscoe provided the laboratory facilities, and M. Krützen provided some of the primers and PCR programs. A. Taylor, D. Blumstein, R. Wayne, Associate Editor V. Janik, and two anonymous reviewers improved an earlier version of this manuscript. L. Möller was sponsored by CAPES (Brazilian Ministry of Education). The project was conducted under the approval of the Macquarie University Animal Ethics Committee and research permits from New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, Australia. We thank all the volunteers who helped in the field.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luciana M. Möller
    • 1
  • Luciano B. Beheregaray
    • 2
  • Simon J. Allen
    • 1
  • Robert G. Harcourt
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of the EnvironmentMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversitySydneyAustralia

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