Superalliance of bottlenose dolphins

Abstract

It is quite common to find several levels of nested male alliances in human political organization1, 2 but these are extremely rare in other species3. Yet we found that male bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops sp.) at Shark Bay, Western Australia, form two levels of alliance within a social network of more than 400 individuals. Fourteen of the males formed highly labile alliances, rather than the more typical stable ones, and joined forces in a large ‘superalliance’ that competed directly with smaller teams of stable alliances.

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Figure 1: Figure 1 Contrasting patterns of alliance formation cannot be explained by habitat differences.

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Connor, R., Heithaus, M. & Barre, L. Superalliance of bottlenose dolphins. Nature 397, 571–572 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1038/17501

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