A New Study Confirms Dolphins As Nurturers

A new study on dolphin behavior recently published in the scientific journal Acta Ethologica details the way in which dolphins help to nurture and support their ill and dying, and may mourn their losses both as individuals and as a pod.

The study was carried out by researchers in Portugal from the University of Porto, who observed at least two different incidences involving Atlantic Bottle Nose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in open waters. The study was lead by Dr. Filipe Alves, who believes that animals such at the Atlantic Bottle Nose Dolphin (also some times called the common bottle nose dolphin) who are very socially complex animals with high intelligence and who often spend their entire lives within their own family and social groups, will experience grieving and exhibit mourning behavior when one of the members of the group dies, and he noted these observations in the published study.

“The in situ observations show that adult Atlantic spotted dolphins try to support their dead calves at surface, either involving a single individual (presumably the mother) or several individuals.”

The study involved research on two specific incidences in which this behavior was recently recorded. The first involved the operator of a tour boat who recorded a group of dolphins gently surrounding and trying to support a dying dolphin, and keeping it at the surface so that it could breathe, staying with it for a number of hours before finally going on their way, leaving their dead behind. A second incident, which was noted by the study, involved observers that were aboard a research vessel who documented similar behavior when he spotted a dying calf being supported by another adult dolphin, who was assumed to be the calf’s mother. Examinations of both dolphins later revealed that they each died from natural causes.

This nurturing and mourning behavior is something that we have known about and observed among dolphins for nearly as long as humans have been a seafaring people. It is this nurturing behavior that have made dolphins such good companions for those who advocate dolphin human therapy (DHT) for special needs children. From time to time, humans have also benefited from this support and rescue behavior, as stories of stranded sailors being rescued by dolphins using the same techniques have been reported around the world. In addition to dolphins, other species including elephants, harbor seals, sea otters, and apes have also had the mourning abilities and complex social dynamics observed and recorded by researchers, and it is believed that such behavior may be common among many other mammals, as well.

[Image: The Mind Unleashed]