It is well known that dolphins are extremely social animals, but a new study performed by scientists at the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute (HBOI) at Florida Atlantic University dug deeper to see exactly how social they really are. The results of the study were truly astonishing, proving once again the vast intelligence of these lovely marine creatures.
Using intensive photo-ID surveys over a six-and-a-half-year period, the researchers studied association patterns as well as movement behavior and habitat preferences of 200 individual dolphins along the Indian River Lagoon. This allowed the scientists to take a closer look at the interactions between bottlenose dolphins, discover how they mingle, and with whom they spend their time. Their findings indicate that dolphins form a highly complex and dynamic group of friends and that they exhibit both preference and avoidance behavior – meaning, they pick and choose who they want to hang with.
The study also found that the location of the lagoon had an effect on how the dolphins socialize. The dolphins in the study clustered into groups of associated animals and formed “communities” that tended to occupy discrete core areas along the north-south axis of the lagoon system. “One of the more unique aspects of our study was the discovery that the physical dimensions of the habitat, the long, narrow lagoon system itself, influenced the spatial and temporal dynamics of dolphin association patterns,” said Elizabeth Murdoch Titcomb, a research biologist at HBOI. “For example, communities that occupy the narrowest stretches of the Indian River Lagoon have the most compact social networks, similar to humans who live in small towns and have fewer people with whom to interact.”
This study gave a unique glimpse into how dolphin form societies, that in many ways, is quite similar to how humans socialize and interact. Bottlenose dolphins continue to amaze us all and are one of the most beautiful creatures to witness in their natural habitat. You can see it for yourself on our amazing Dolphin Quest tour along picturesque Boca Ciega Bay! For more information, please call us today at 727-392-7090.