[MARMAM] MARMAM submission, New Publication: Synchrony, leadership, and association in male Indo-pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus)

Laura McCue mccue.laura at gmail.com
Wed Mar 18 09:35:24 PDT 2020

Dear Marmamers,

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce our new publication in

Synchrony, leadership, and association in male Indo-pacific bottlenose
dolphins (*Tursiops aduncus*)

Laura M. McCue, William R. Cioffi, Michael R. Heithaus, Lynne Barrè, &
Richard C. Connor


Please take care of yourselves and each other during this difficult time.


Male Indo‐pacific bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia, have
converged with humans in the formation of nested male alliances and the use
of synchrony in alliance behavior. Further, the strength of association
among allied male dolphins varies and the stability of alliances correlates
with the rate that males consort with estrus females (and is thus a
possible indicator of dominance). To examine the possibility that synchrony
reflects alliance association strength and dominance relationships, we
analyzed videotapes from focal follows of two groups of males that reflect
the range of alliance size and the strength of association between
individuals in the population. We examined two variables: *leadership* during
synchronous behaviors, based on which animal in a synchronously surfacing
pair surfaced first, and the *degree of synchrony*, based on temporal
differences in synchronous surfacing. We predicted that closer associates
would exhibit a greater degree of synchrony and that one dolphin in a dyad
would consistently lead. Contrary to our predictions, the degree of
synchrony was inversely related to strength of association within
alliances. This surprising result suggests that individuals with less
secure bonds may strive more to achieve synchrony. We found no evidence of
leadership during synchronous surfacing or between synchrony and other
behavioral variables. Proximate mechanisms for synchronous behavior, such
as entrainment and mutual motor imitation (“the mirror game” paradigm), may
inhibit leadership in this context. Our results show that synchrony during
surfacing is not a useful behavior to examine for dominance relationships
in wild dolphins but it may be a useful tool to examine variation in
alliance relationships.
Thank you,
Laura McCue
NOAA Fisheries
West Coast Region
mccue.laura at gmail.com
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