Marine Biology

Dolphins and their Complex Social Behaviors



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When you think about living in a pod, do you think about some little space age apartment or a giant green bean looking thing? Well, dolphins live in pods. Pod in this case means their social unit, or extended family'. This is similar to your family unit that you live with. A pod can have from seven members up to over several hundred. With deeper and more open waters, the pods will be bigger. Wild pods are usually based on "age, sex, and reproductive condition".
Sometimes pods will join up for a while to form "herds or aggregations". Whether pods will join together or separate depends on several things. "Protection, fright and familial associations" tend to draw the pods together, while "alertness, aggression and feeding", tend to separate or disperse them. Imagine a family reunion where several pods' of your family join together to see one another and eat. You may get together for food, fellowship and fun, but disperse when it's time to go home or if someone makes you mad.
Dolphins have a large brain, and their "social behavior and organization" are very "complex and advanced". They are intelligent, social creatures. Just as the typical' family might have a dad or other parent, the dolphin pod usually has one dolphin that is the leader. Unlike a family, dolphins choose their dominant leader among the males by rituals they perform "such as tail slapping", "biting, chasing, jaw clapping" or "scratching with their teeth" that may leave slight scars (stripes) on the dolphin's skin. Dolphins may also blow bubbles from their blowholes when they show aggression.
Dolphins like to associate with other dolphins in their own pods, and will know another one even if they haven't seen each other for a while. The calves bond with their mother is very close and they remain close for a long time. Sometimes adult males will bond with a best friend' and "engage in cooperative behaviors" with them.
Imagine you and your girl/boyfriend sitting together on a porch swing. You lean in and butt one another in the head before scratching one another with your teeth. That wouldn't go over very well among humans, but it is how dolphins court! Dolphins like being with other dolphins and will stroke one another with their flippers kind of like a caress at times. They also like to hunt together, and seem to play' by chasing each other, carrying things around and throwing seaweed to each other.
The intelligent dolphin is fun to watch and interact with, they can easily learn tricks and are very social animals. Their social system is a big part of what they do. They live together and help one another and protect one another. If only humans could take a lesson from the dolphin.
Resources:
http://www.wiu.edu/users/emp102/DolphinWeb/dolphin_behavior.htm

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