Evolutionary Ecology

, Volume 21, Issue 3, pp 357–366 | Cite as

Evidence for social role in a dolphin social network

  • David LusseauEmail author
Original Paper


Social animals have to take into consideration the behaviour of conspecifics when making decisions to go by their daily lives. These decisions affect their fitness and there is therefore an evolutionary pressure to try making the right choices. In many instances individuals will make their own choices and the behaviour of the group will be a democratic integration of everyone’s decision. However, in some instances it can be advantageous to follow the choice of a few individuals in the group if they have more information regarding the situation that has arisen. Here I provide early evidence that decisions about shifts in activity states in a population of bottlenose dolphin follow such a decision-making process. This unshared consensus is mediated by a non-vocal signal, which can be communicated globally within the dolphin school. These signals are emitted by individuals that tend to have more information about the behaviour of potential competitors because of their position in the social network. I hypothesise that this decision-making process emerged from the social structure of the population and the need to maintain mixed-sex schools.


Bottlenose dolphin Unshared consensus Social network Tursiops Behaviour Sociality 



I am currently supported by a Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship provided by the Killam trusts. I would like to thank Ramon Ferrer-i-Cancho and Hal Whitehead for numerous fruitful discussions. Comments from two anonymous reviewers and Sara Helms Cahan improved this manuscript. Data collection and compilation was funded by the New Zealand Whale and Dolphin Trust, the New Zealand Department of Conservation, Real Journeys Ltd, and the University of Otago (Departments of Zoology and Marine Sciences and Bridging Grant scheme). I would also like to thank Susan M. Lusseau, Oliver J. Boisseau, Liz Slooten, and Steve Dawson for their numerous contributions to this research.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of ZoologyUniversity of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of BiologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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