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Behavioural observations of bottlenose dolphins towards two dead conspecifics
Abstract: Two different dead bottlenose dolphins were observed in separate years with attending male bottlenose dolphins. In 2000, an adult female bottlenose dolphin body was identified ~150 m from shore in ~8 m depth with two attendant adult male bottlenose dolphins. These males were sighted in proximity with the carcass for two days. In 2001, a sub-adult male bottlenose dolphin was observed ~75 m from shore in ~6 m depth with more than two dozen attendant sub-adult and adult male dolphins and two adult female bottlenose dolphins. Attendant dolphins approached the dead male body and engaged in inquisitive behaviours (e.g., echolocation, head-scanning, nudging, Dudzinski, 1998) at the genital region and chest repeatedly. After 17 min of initial observation, attendant males exhibited erections when positioned within 0.5 m of the carcass. Documented behaviours of attendant dolphins in 2000 correspond with mate-guarding activity previously reported for bottlenose dolphins. Several alternative explanations (e.g., dominance, competition) for behaviours recorded during attendance of the sub-adult male carcass are discussed.
Key Words: BOTTLENOSE DOLPHINS; TURSIOPS ADUNCUS; DEAD DOLPHINS; MATE-GUARDING; COMPETITIVE BEHAVIOUR; EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE; REFERENTIAL POINTING
Document Type: Research article