Abstract: Various studies have shown dolphin social relationships to be complex, and this is an area of research that is being continually expanded. This paper describes the first account of epimeletic behaviour observed in a small resident population of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) in Port Phillip, Victoria, Australia. The presumed mother displayed nurturant epimeletic behaviour, assisting a paralysed juvenile to swim. In addition, two adults and a juvenile dolphin were also present during the observations. The three additional dolphins did not assist in physically supporting the juvenile; however, one exhibited succorant epimeletic behaviour towards the mother and injured juvenile whenever a vessel was positioned close to the group. Once the juvenile was euthanised, the group appeared agitated, showing short dives in a directionally erratic manner. A postmortem revealed that the juvenile's spine was severed, and it was considered that this was caused by a boat propeller.

Key Words: BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN; TURSIOPS SP; EPIMELETIC BEHAVIOUR; BOAT STRIKE INJURY; EUTHANASIA; PORT PHILLIP; AUSTRALIA

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.32.3.2006.357

Page Numbers: 357 - 362

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