Do Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) Have Distinct and Stable Personalities?

Abstract: Psychologists have long been interested in the role of individual differences in the behavior of many species, particularly consistent differences that might reflect temperament or personality. Only recently has animal personality become an important and credible topic of research, however. In an effort to add to the literature on animal personality, the possibility of consistent personality characteristics was explored for a previously unstudied species, the bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus). Dolphin personality was assessed using a measure that evaluated possible personality characteristics. The measure consisted of a list of adjectives and descriptions commonly associated with dolphin behaviors (e.g., “curious: appears to be interested in new situations or objects”). Judges rated each animal on each description using a seven-point rating scale. The stability of individual dolphin personality characteristics was assessed by comparing results from judgments of individual dolphin personalities collected prior to Hurricane Katrina with those collected approximately 15 months later. In the interval between these two ratings, the dolphins’ home at MarineLife Oceanarium was destroyed, and the dolphins were subsequently relocated to a facility in the Bahamas. The second set of judgments was made by individuals in the Bahamas who had no experience with the dolphins prior to Hurricane Katrina and no information about the results of the earlier dolphin personality assessments. The results support the notions that dolphins demonstrate different personalities and that these personalities are relatively stable over time and across situations.


Document Type: Research article

DOI: 10.1578/AM.33.3.2007.380

Page Numbers: 380 – 389

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