Male dolphins coordinate just like humans

The study provides insight into the importance of physical and vocal coordination in alliance forming animals.


When it comes to collaboration, male dolphins coordinate their behavior similar to humans, suggests a new study by the researchers from the Universities of Western Australia and Bristol.

For the study, researchers used long-term acoustic data gathered from the famous population of dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia. After studying the data, they have shown that allied male dolphins also match the tempo of their partner’s calls when working together, and would sometimes even produce their calls in sync.

Not only this, the Male dolphins not only synchronize their movements but also coordinate their vocal behavior when cooperating in alliances. Such behavior suggests this might help reduce tension between the males in a context that requires them to cooperate successfully.

Lead author Bronte Moore, who carried out the study while working at UWA’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Allied male bottlenose dolphins are also well known for this kind of behavior and can form alliances that can last for decades.”

“To advertise their alliance relationships and maintain their social bonds, they rely on synchronous movements. We wanted to know whether they would also synchronize their vocal behavior.”

Dr. Stephanie King, Senior Lecturer from Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences who guided the research, added“Male dolphins need to work together to herd a female and defend her from rival alliances, but they are also competing to fertilize her.”

“Such synchronous and coordinated behavior between allied males may, therefore, promote cooperative behavior and regulate stress, as it has been shown to do in humans.”

Journal Reference:
  1. Acoustic coordination by allied male dolphins in a cooperative context. DOI:10.1098/rspb.2019.2944