Study shows that dolphins that play together as calves have more reproductive success as adults

The more group games they play when they are young, the greater their reproductive success when they are older: this is the conclusion reached by a study of dolphins mules carried out for years in the pristine Shark Bay, on the Indian coast of Australia.

The study, led by researchers from the universities of Bristol and Western Australia, and published this Monday in the journal Proceedings of the United States National Academy of Sciences, concludes that The social play of young male bottlenose dolphins predicts their reproductive success as adults.

Part of the key is that when playing, As the authors have observed, Juvenile male dolphins try to imitate the reproductive behaviors of adults of the same gender, which gives them a great practical advantage when it comes time to mate.

In addition to observing the behavior of bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, a World Heritage marine area UNESCO Due to their natural values, the researchers used genetic data from the specimens studied.

Mating test

“We found that juvenile play involves immature versions of adult reproductive behaviors that are crucial for males to access and mate with females in heat.”says one of the authors, Katy Holmes, a researcher at the University of Western Australia in a statement.

In this way, the time that male bottlenose dolphins spend playing as juveniles serves to predict how many calves they will father as adults.

Scientists have also seen how juvenile male dolphins begin to forge a series of alliances through common play that they end up consolidating when they are adults to help each other access females.

In this way, when they are older, pairs or trios of allied males coordinate their behavior to court females individually, not compete with each other and be more successful.

Bottlenose dolphins work in these alliances since they play, as babies.

“Playful behavior is widespread in humans and other animals, but the reasons why animals play together have long been a mystery. “This study supports the idea that animals in the wild play in groups to rehearse behaviors that will be important for their success as adults,” emphasizes another of the authors, Stephanie King, a biologist at the University of Bristol.

Bottlenose dolphins are the most common among the 30 existing species of dolphins. They are characterized by their bottle-shaped snout, measure 2 to 4 meters and can weigh more than 600 kilos.