Come dine with me: food-associated social signalling in wild bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)
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Food-related signalling is widespread in the animal kingdom with some food-associated vocalizations considered functionally referential. Food calls can, however, vary greatly in the type of information they convey. Thus, there are a multitude of purposes for which food calls are used, including social recruitment, caller spacing, the indication of type, quantity, quality, divisibility of food, the caller’s hunger level and even as tools to manipulate prey behaviour. Yet little work has focused on the social aspect of food calling in animals. We investigated the association of social signals in wild bottlenose dolphins with foraging behaviour where context-specific food-associated calls are commonly produced. Our data showed that specific social signals were significantly correlated with food call production and these calls rarely occurred in the absence of food calls. We suggest that animals are sharing additional information on the food patch itself with their social affiliates.
KeywordsFood calls Bottlenose dolphin Signature whistles Vocal learning Call matching
We would like to thank Thomas Götz and all our field assistants for their help during this study. The project was funded by a BBSRC Studentship to S.L.K., and a Royal Society University Research Fellowship and a Fellowship of the Wissenschaftskolleg Berlin to V.M.J. It was carried out under Scottish Natural Heritage Research License number 10778. The data reported in this paper are archived at the Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St Andrews.
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