Social network important for dolphins' reproductive fitness: scientists

14:22, November 02, 2010      

Email | Print | Subscribe | Comments | Forum 

Social factors, not just genes, influence the reproductive fitness of female dolphins, an international team of behavioral scientists found on Tuesday.

Dr Celine Frere, who led the research at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney of Australia, studied how inherited genetic characteristics and social factors influenced the reproductive success of a group of bottle nose dolphins in Shark Bay, Western Australia.

She said that good genes are only part of the picture; and that an individual's social network has a strong influence on reproduction.

The team used calving success, where the offspring survive infancy (past three years of age), in their measurement.

"We found that genetic effects only account for 16 percent of variation in calving success amongst the female dolphins, whereas social factors are a much stronger determining factor - they are almost three times as important as having good genes," Frere told ABC News on Tuesday.

In a paper published in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers analyzed twenty-five years of observational data from 52 female dolphins which detailed the number of offspring, and whom they associated with.

This information was combined with DNA results to establish how closely related the dolphins in the group were.

No one knows exactly why having friends and relatives who have done a good job having babies helps, bur Frere noted that " Dolphins in this population are attacked by sharks, so protection by other females may help reproduction."

Frere said she planned to apply the technique to the Eastern Water Dragon, an Australian lizard that is "socially complicated" like dolphins, but easier to study because it does not live underwater.



  • Do you have anything to say?


Special Coverage
  • Premier Wen Jiabao visits Hungary, Britain, Germany
  • From drought to floods
Major headlines
Editor's Pick
  • Chinese Navy soldiers hold an evening party marking the upcoming 62nd National Day aboard Chinese Navy hospital ship "Peace Ark" in the Pacific on Sept. 28, 2011. The Chinese National Day falls on Oct. 1. (Xinhua/Zha Chunming)
  • Photo taken on Sept. 30, 2011 shows the crowd at the plaza of Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, capital of China. The railway transportation witnessed a travel peak with the approach of the seven-day National Day holidays on Friday. (Xinhua)
  • A man wearing high-heel shoes takes part in the 3rd annual Walk a Mile in Her Shoes, an event when men literally walk in women's shoes to raise awareness about ending violence against women, at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 29, 2011. (Xinhua/Zou Zheng)
  • Photo taken on Sept. 29, 2011 shows a cargo ship in danger on the sea near Zhuhai City, south China's Guangdong Province. Cargo ship Fangzhou 6 of Qingzhou of southwest China's Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region lost control after water stormed into its cabin due to Typhoon Nesat on the sea near Zhuhai Thursday, leaving 12 crew members in danger. Rescuers rushed to the ship and saved them by using a helicopter. (Xinhua)
  • Actress Gong Li poses for L'Officiel Magazine. (Xinhua Photo)
  • Demonstrators from the Occupy Wall Street campaign hold placards as they march in the financial district of New York September 29, 2011. After hundreds of protesters were denied access to some areas outside the New York Stock Exchange on September 17, demonstrators set up a rag-tag camp three blocks away. Zuccotti Park is a campground festooned with placards and anti-Wall Street slogans. The group is adding complaints of excessive police force against protesters and police treatment of ethnic minorities and Muslims to its grievances list, which includes bank bailouts, foreclosures and high unemployment. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)
Hot Forum Discussion