April 17, 2024

A Novel Case of Non-Offspring Adoption in a Free-Ranging Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) Inhabiting the Indian River Lagoon, Florida


Elisabeth M. Howells, John S. Reif, Sarah E. Bechdel, M. Elizabeth Murdoch, Gregory D. Bossart, Stephen D. McCulloch, and Marilyn S. Mazzoil


Abstract: Wild and captive epimeletic care has been reported worldwide in many different species of cetaceans. Epimeletic care can be described as nurturant or succorant in nature. While adoption can be considered an example of nurturant behavior, to date there have been no reported cases of permanent adoption among wild cetaceans. During routine photo-identification surveys, an adult female bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) was found in the presence of a young calf that was not her own. This mother-calf-like relationship lasted nearly 2 y until the death of the allomother. This paper documents a novel case of free-ranging bottlenose dolphin adoption that occurred in the Indian River Lagoon, Florida.

Key Words: adoption, epimeletic care, nurturant behavior, succorant behavior, allomaternal care, allomother, alloparental, Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus, Indian River Lagoon, stingray

Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.35.1.2009.43

Page Numbers: 43-47

Info SKU: Vol__35__Iss__1__Howells_et__al_ Category: