Skip to main content

Bottlenose dolphins come out to play

New research shows young bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) learn and develop through play, just like human children.

Anyone who has a dog or a cat will know that they play, particularly when they are young.  Play is an important way of testing and understanding the world about them.


Problem solving skills

Play also creates scenarios, and tests positions and possibilities.  It develops prowess and agility.  It rehearses action,  and with different behavioural strategies and methods, individuals can develop a variety of problem-solving skills that can be applied across different contexts. It enhances stimulation and sensory experience, but above all,  play is by its nature 'enjoyable'.

Cultural learning

Like humans, dolphins have big brains.  Play is also vital for  developing the complex neural circuitry of a dolphin's  brain, a great deal of which will be forming after birth and in early life.

Previous research suggests that complex social and cultural characteristics, such as hunting together, developing regional dialects and learning from observation, are linked to the expansion of the animal brains.

Dolphins also learn by watching others play.

Dolphins at play

Researchers writing in the journal Behavioral Processes observed the play behaviour of 30 dolphins, ranging in age from one to 24. Behaviours were categorized as either social or solitary, which also included observational play (watching others play) or parallel play (independent play close to others).

Like many species, play behaviours were found to decrease into adulthood. Despite the social nature of bottlenose dolphins, calves (1-3 years) and juveniles (4-7 years) engaged in solitary play more often than social play, suggesting it may help to teach individuals the skills they need to engage with others.

Like human children, dolphins play with their age group

Young dolphins also preferred to engage in social play with dolphins of similar ages, rather than adults.   But as calves age, "their preference for playing with peers of the same age becomes less characteristic of their play interactions, and instead older and more experienced individuals are selected as play partners."

The researchers say understanding these behaviours could lead to better social environments for dolphins in managed care, but it also adds to our understanding of the role of play.

through development of a more diverse behavioral repertoire, stereotypical behavior and behavioral deficits should also decrease, resulting in more natural and enriching lifestyle.
It might also lead to a better understanding of creativity and problem solving.




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The lion and the wildebeest

Birds flock, fish school, bees swarm, but social being is more than simply sticking together.  Social groups enable specialisation and a sharing of abilities, and enhances ability, learning and creating new tricks. The more a group works together, the more effective they become as a team.  Chimpanzees learn from each other how to use stones to crack nuts, or sticks to get termites.  All around us we see cooperation and learning in nature.  Nature is inherently creative.  Pulling together becomes a rallying cry during a crisis.  We have heard it throughout the coronavirus pandemic.  "We are all in this together", a mantra that encourages people to adopt a common strategy. In an era of 'self-interest' and 'survival of the fittest,'  and 'selfish gene', we lose sight of the obvious conclusion from the evidence all around us.   Sticking together is more often the better approach.  This is valid for the lion as it is also for the wildebeest.   We don't

No evidence for vaccine link with autism

Public health bodies are worried that an alarming drop in childhood vaccinations is leading to a resurgence of diseases in childhood that we had all but eradicated.  Misinformation and scare stories about the harmful effects of vaccines abound on the internet and in social media.  Where they are based on 'science', it is highly selective, and often reliance is placed on falsehoods.  Conspiracy theories also abound - cover-ups, deception, lies. As a result, too many parents are shunning vaccinations for their children.  So, what does the published, peer-reviewed literature tell us about vaccincations? Are they safe and effective, or are there long term harmful effects?  A new report now provides some of the answers. New evidence published in the Cochrane Library today finds MMR, MMRV, and MMR+V vaccines are effective and that they are not associated with increased risk of autism. Measles, mumps, rubella, and varicella (also known as chickenpox) are infectious diseases cau

Therapeutic animal stress

Interacting with animals is known to be therapeutic,  particularly in reducing stress.  But do we consider sufficiently the effects this may have on the animals involved?   We might assume that because it is calming for us, then it must be so for the therapeutic animals, but is this so?  New research suggests that it isn't always without stress for the animals involved.  Positive human-animal interaction relates to changes in physiological variables both in humans and other animals, including a reduction of subjective psychological stress (fear, anxiety) and an increase of oxytocin levels in the brain.  It also reduces the 'stress' hormone, cortisol. Indeed, these biological responses have measurable clinical benefits.  Oxytocin has long been implicated in maternal bonding, sexual behaviour and social affiliation behaviours and in promoting a sense of well-being .  So far, so good.  We humans often turn to animals for stress relief, companionship, and even therapy.  We kno