Skip to main content

Acoustic behavior associated with cooperative task success in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)

A Commentary to this article was published on 31 August 2016

An Erratum to this article was published on 27 May 2016


Although many species have proven capable of cooperating to achieve common goals, the role of communication in cooperation has received relatively little attention. Analysis of communication between partners is vital in determining whether actions are truly cooperative rather than serendipitous or learned via trial and error (Chalmeau and Gallo in Behav Process 35:101–111, 1996a. doi:10.1016/0376-6357(95)00049-6, Primates 37:39–47, 1996b. doi:10.1007/BF02382918). Wild cetaceans often produce sounds during cooperative foraging, playing, and mating, but the role of these sounds in cooperative events is largely unknown. Here, we investigated acoustic communication between two male bottlenose dolphins while they cooperatively opened a container (Kuczaj et al. in Anim Cogn 18:543–550, 2015b. doi:10.1007/s10071-014-0822-4). Analyses of whistles, burst pulses, and bi-phonations that occurred during four contexts (i.e., no container, no animals interacting with container, one animal interacting with container, and two animals interacting with container) revealed that overall sound production rate significantly increased during container interactions. Sound production rates were also significantly higher during cooperative successes than solo successes, suggesting that the coordination of efforts rather than the apparatus itself was responsible for the phonation increase. The most common sound type during cooperative successes was burst pulse signals, similar to past recordings of cooperative events in bottlenose dolphins (Bastian in Animal sonar systems. Laboratoire de Physiologie Acoustique, Jouy-en Josas, pp 803–873, 1967; Connor and Smolker 1996).

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


Download references


The authors would like to extend our gratitude to the Research and Animal Care/Training staffs at Dolphins Plus Bayside for their commitment to conducting trials and support of the study.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Holli C. Eskelinen.

Additional information

An erratum to this article can be found at

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Eskelinen, H.C., Winship, K.A., Jones, B.L. et al. Acoustic behavior associated with cooperative task success in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus). Anim Cogn 19, 789–797 (2016).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Cognition
  • Cooperative behavior
  • Sound production
  • Communication
  • Atlantic bottlenose dolphin
  • Tursiops truncatus