NOV 22, 2017 09:20 AM PST

Male Dolphins Present Females with Gifts During Mating Attempts

Dolphin behavior may not be too far off from human behavior in some aspects, and contemporary scientific research is starting to validate this notion.

Male dolphins might be able to increase their odds of mating by presenting the female with a gift.

Image Credit: n9akovic/Pixabay

A new study conducted by University of Western Australia researchers indicates that male dolphins seldom present females with gifts to win their love. The findings have been published this week in the journal Scientific Reports.

While female humans might like receiving flowers and jewelry from their romantic partner, dolphins improvise by using objects that are readily available in the ocean. One thing that happens to fit the bill quite nicely is a fresh marine sponge.

Related: This wild dolphin was wearing a T-shirt, and that's bad

The researchers cited several instances over their ten-years of research where male humpback dolphins would dive down to the seafloor to retrieve a marine sponge with their beaks. They would then return near the surface and push it toward the female they wanted to mate with.

In many cases, acoustic or visual displays accompanied the kind gift-giving, symbolizing that this behavior was a means of impressing the female to increase the male's odds of mating.

"We were at first perplexed to witness these intriguing behavioral displays by male humpback dolphins, but as we undertook successive field trips over the years, the evidence mounted," explained study lead author Dr. Simon Allen from the University of Western Australia’s School of Biological Sciences.

"Here we have some of the most socially complex animals on the planet using sponges, not as a foraging tool, but as a gift, a display of his quality, or perhaps even as a threat in the behavioral contexts of socializing and mating."

Related: Dolphin catapults porpoise several feet into the air

Non-human mammal gift-giving is exceedingly rare. The researchers concluded that a dolphin performing this activity underscores his capability as a mate, helping him to stand out from other male dolphins.

Admittedly, there’s no data yet to suggest that this behavior increases the male’s chance of mating; this is something the researchers hope to discern in future studies.

Source: University of Western Australia

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
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