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Proc Biol Sci. 2001 Sep 22;268(1479):1941-7.

Alliance membership and kinship in wild male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) of southeastern Australia.

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  • 1Marine Mammal Research Group, Graduate School of the Environment, and Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, 2109, New South Wales, Australia.


Bottlenose dolphins are one of only a few mammalian taxa where the males are known to cooperate within their social group in order to maintain mating access to single females against other males. Male bonds in bottlenose dolphins have been hypothesized as evolving through kinship and associated inclusive fitness effects. In this study we tested whether individually identified male bottlenose dolphins preferentially associate and form alliances with kin in a small coastal resident population of southeastern Australia using a combination of behavioural data, genetic sexing, sequences of the mitochondrial DNA control region and nuclear microsatellite markers. Males generally associated significantly more often than expected with one to three other males, with whom they jointly herded females for mating. Associations and alliance membership were not associated with either maternal kinship or genetic relatedness. The majority of male pairs within alliances were randomly related, although high relatedness values were found between males of different alliances in the resident population. These findings indicate that mechanisms other than kin selection may be foremost in the development and maintenance of cooperation between male bottlenose dolphins.

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