The role of synchronized swimming as affiliative and anti-predatory behavior in long-finned pilot whales

V. Senigaglia, D. Lusseau, R. de Stephanis, P. Verborgh

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Synchronized swimming in cetaceans has been hypothesized to play a role in affiliative processes as well as anti-predatory responses. We compared observed variation in synchronized swimming at two research sites in relation to disturbance exposure to test these two hypotheses. This study describes and quantifies pair synchronization in long-finned pilot whales at the Strait of Gibraltar, Spain and Cape Breton, Canada. Synchronization differed depending on the behavioral state and the response is different in the two sites leading to the conclusion that environment can shape the occurrence and magnitude of certain behaviors. We also analyzed intra-population variations in synchronization among 4 social units of Pilot whales in the Strait of Gibraltar and the results of this study confirmed the affiliative role of synchronization and highlighted an influence of disturbance on synchronization. We can conclude that synchronization is a common behavior in long-finned pilot whales that allow for close proximity and rapid coordinated response of individuals, with the multiple functions of showing affiliation and reacting to disturbance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-14
Number of pages7
JournalBehavioural Processes
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2012



  • synchronization
  • Strait of Gibraltar
  • Cape Breton
  • long finned pilot whales
  • GLMM

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