Association patterns and kinship in female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) of southeastern Australia

Luciana M. Möller*, Luciano B. Beheregaray, Simon J. Allen, Robert G. Harcourt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Citations (Scopus)


Kinship has been shown to be an important correlate of group membership and associations among many female mammals. In this study, we investigate association patterns in female Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) inhabiting an embayment in southeastern Australia. We combine the behavioral data with microsatellite DNA and mitochondrial DNA data to test the hypotheses that genetic relatedness and maternal kinship correlate with associations and social clusters. Mean association between females was not significantly different from a random mean, but the standard deviation was significantly higher than a random standard deviation, indicating the presence of nonrandom associates in the dataset. A neighbor-joining tree, based on the distance of associations between females, identified four main social clusters in the area. Mean genetic relatedness between pairs of frequent female associates was significantly higher than that between pairs of infrequent associates. There was also a significant correlation between mtDNA haplotype sharing and the degree of female association. However, the mean genetic relatedness of female pairs within and between social clusters and the proportion of female pairs with the same and different mtDNA haplotypes within and between clusters were not significantly different. This study demonstrates that kinship correlates with associations among female bottlenose dolphins, but that kinship relations are not necessarily a prerequisite for membership in social clusters. We hypothesize that different forces acting on female bottlenose dolphin sociality appear to promote the formation of flexible groups which include both kin and nonkin.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)109-117
Number of pages9
JournalBehavioral Ecology and Sociobiology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006


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