[MARMAM] New publication on "sponging" dolphins in Shark Bay, W.A.

Simon Allen S.Allen at murdoch.edu.au
Sun Jul 4 07:20:44 PDT 2010

G'day folks,
We're pleased to announce another publication (online at this stage) on the dolphins of Shark Bay, Western Australia:

Bacher, K., Allen, S.J., Lindholm, A., Bejder, L. & Krützen, M. In press. Genes or culture - Are mitochondrial genes associated with tool use in bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.)? Behavior Genetics DOI 10.1007/s10519-010-9375-8

Some bottlenose dolphins use marine sponges as foraging tools (‘sponging’), which appears to be socially transmitted from mothers mainly to their female offspring. Yet, explanations alternative to social transmission have been proposed. Firstly, the propensity to engage in sponging might be due to differences in diving ability caused by variation of mitochondrial genes coding for proteins of the respiratory chain. Secondly, the cultural technique of sponging may have selected for changes in these same genes (or other autosomal ones) among its possessors. We tested whether sponging can be predicted by mitochondrial coding genes and whether these genes are under selection. In 29 spongers and 54 non-spongers from two study sites, the noncoding haplotype at the HVRI locus was a significant predictor of sponging, whereas the coding mitochondrial genes were not. There was no evidence of selection in the investigated genes. Our study shows that mitochondrial gene variation is unlikely to be a viable alternative to cultural transmission as a primary driver of tool use in dolphins.

Keywords: Social learning; Gene culture co-evolution; Bottlenose dolphins; Tool use.

If you simply can't wait for online access or the hard copy to be printed, please email the lead author (kathrin.bacher at bluewin.ch) or the senior author (michael.kruetzen at aim.uzh.ch) for a copy of the PDF.

Kind regards, Simon

Simon Allen
Research Fellow, Murdoch University Cetacean Research Unit
Centre for Fish and Fisheries Research
School of Biological Sciences and Biotechnology
Murdoch University
South St., Murdoch
Western Australia 6150

mob: +61(0) 416 083 653
email: s.allen at murdoch.edu.au
web: http://www.cffr.murdoch.edu.au/mucru/simon_allen.html

"The opposite of courage is not cowardice; it is conformity. Even dead fish can go with the flow." (Jim Hightower)
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