Spontaneous pointing by bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
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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.
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