[MARMAM] "Gaze Following" in Dolphins

Johnson, Christine c8johnson at ucsd.edu
Sat Sep 17 13:34:04 PDT 2022

Greetings all!
My colleagues and I are happy to announce the publication of a new paper on "Conspecific "gaze following" in bottlenose dolphins", just out in Animal Cognition. Below is the abstract and link.

"Gaze following"—when one individual witnesses another shift its orientation, and then re-orients in the same direction—has been observed in a wide range of species. Related work with dolphins has to date focused on human–dolphin interactions. In this conspecific study, we examined a group of dolphins orienting, in passing, to gateways between their pools, as opportunities for witnesses to demonstrate "gaze following". Seven bottlenose dolphins were synchronously videotaped on six underwater cameras, for 21 h over three days, and the recordings analyzed by trained observers. The identities of all animals present, their partner state, and whether and to what degree they had altered their access to the gate (e.g., from Monocular to Binocular, or Binocular to Visio-Echoic) was recorded. Compared to animals that did not witness such a change, witnesses of an increase in access by another dolphin were significantly more likely to also act to increase their own access. We observed 460 such cases of "gaze following" in these animals. Dolphins who were partnered (showed sustained swimming within 1 body length) were significantly more likely, than non-partnered animals, to "gaze follow". Dolphins also showed a significant tendency toward matching the kind of access they observed. No significant difference was found in the presence of animals in the back pools, during changes in orientation that were followed, versus in those that were not. These findings support adding bottlenose dolphins to the growing list of species that display conspecific "gaze following".

This paper is available online at:


or contact the lead author for a pdf.
All the best,

Christine M. Johnson PhD

Director, Dolphin Cognition Lab

Dept. of Cognitive Science

University of California, San Diego
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