[MARMAM] New publication on cooperation in bottlenose dolphins

Kelly Jaakkola kelly at dolphins.org
Wed Sep 19 06:50:09 PDT 2018

Dear All,

We are pleased to announce our new publication:

Jaakkola K, Guarino E, Donegan K, King SL. 2018 Bottlenose dolphins can 
understand their partner’s role in a cooperative task. Proc. R. Soc. B 
285: 20180948. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2018.0948


In recent decades, a number of studies have examined whether various 
non-human animals understand their partner's role in cooperative 
situations. Yet the relatively tolerant timing requirements of these 
tasks make it theoretically possible for animals to succeed by using 
simple behavioural strategies rather than by jointly intended 
coordination. Here we investigated whether bottlenose dolphins could 
understand a cooperative partner's role by testing whether they could 
learn a button-pressing task requiring precise behavioural 
synchronization. Specifically, members of cooperative dyads were 
required to swim across a lagoon and each press their own underwater 
button simultaneously (within a 1 s time window), whether sent together 
or with a delay between partners of 1–20 s. We found that dolphins were 
able to work together with extreme precision even when they had to wait 
for their partner, and that their coordination improved over the course 
of the study, with the time between button presses in the latter trials 
averaging 370 ms. These findings show that bottlenose dolphins can learn 
to understand their partner's role in a cooperative situation, and 
suggest that the behavioural synchronization evident in wild dolphins' 
synchronous movement and coordinated alliance displays may be a 
generalized cognitive ability that can also be used to solve novel 
cooperative tasks.

The paper is open access and can be found here: 

-- Kelly
Kelly Jaakkola, PhD
Director of Research, Dolphin Research Center
Chair, Scientific Advisory Committee, Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks 
and Aquariums/
/kelly at dolphins.org/
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