Alliances of Male Bottlenose Dolphins in Shark Bay, WA

Shark Bay, Western Australia is host to one of the most complex societies of nonhumans known to modern science. At this site, adult males in this dense resident population maintain up to three levels of nested alliances through competitive and cooperative engagements. Thirty years of research on this population suggests that the structure of these relationships within and between levels is both socially complex and cognitively demanding with shifts occurring across seasons as well as individual lifetimes. However, the process of how such relationships are maintained over time is not well understood. We propose a dedicated study of the dynamics of exchange between fourteen males as they engage in the maintenance of first, second, and third order relationships across two mating seasons.  The proposed research combines innovative technology with a unique history of associations to provide a critical multi-dimensional lens on the cognitive engagements between individuals in this compelling population.