Why Are Male Social Relationships Complex in the Doubtful Sound Bottlenose Dolphin Population?

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Abstract

Background. Access to oestrus females tends to be the main driver of male sociality. This factor can lead to complex behavioural interactions between males and groups of males. Male bottlenose dolphins may form alliances to consort females and to compete with other males. In some populations these alliances may form temporary coalitions when competing for females. I examined the role of dyadic and group interactions in the association patterns of male bottlenose dolphins in Doubtful Sound, New Zealand. There is no apparent mating competition in this population and no consortship has been observed, yet agonistic interactions between males occur regularly. Methodology/Principal Findings. By comparing the network of male interactions in several social dimensions (affiliative, agonistic, and associative) I show that while agonistic interactions relate to dyadic association patterns, affiliative interactions seem to relate to group association patterns. Some evidence suggests that groups of males also formed temporary coalitions during agonistic interactions. While different groups of males had similar relationships with non-oestrus females, the time they spent with oestrus females and mothers of newborns differed greatly. Conclusions/Significance. After considering several hypotheses, I propose that the evolution of these complex relationships was driven by sexual competition probably to out-compete other males for female choice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e348-e355
Number of pages8
JournalPloS ONE
Volume2
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2007

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