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Authors: Thean, Tara
Advisors: Gould, James
Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) develop signature whistles to convey identity information and maintain group cohesion. These animals are thought to be capable of vocal learning: they may incorporate whistle modulation patterns from community members into their own. It is unclear which members free-ranging calves use as models, however, and whether those members differ between wild and captive dolphins. Using 69 wild calves recorded in Florida between 1984 and 2012, I sought to identify a relationship between the strength of a calf's association with other dolphins during its development, and the similarity between their whistles. We found a significant correlation between the similarity of only the males' whistles to those of their associates (p < 0.05, n=32, 1428 comparisons). This correlation was not particularly strong, however (r = 0.027), suggesting that the positive correlation between association and whistle similarity for male dolphins is small. Meanwhile, a greater proportion of captive dolphins develop whistles very similar to those of their close associates than do free-ranging dolphins. These results suggest that wild and captive dolphins have different rules in signature whistle development, possibly governed by social group composition.
Extent: 133 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1992-2017

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