The unique nature of the New College education system culminates with an honors thesis and oral baccalaureate examination. I studied the behavior of an adult bottlenose dolphin and her newborn calf, completing an in-depth analysis of synchronous behavior throughout the calf's first month of life. I presented the results of my thesis as a poster at the Society of Marine Mammalogy's Biennial Conference in 1999.

Synchrony between a Mother-Calf Pair of Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops truncatus)


Behavioral synchrony is a phenomenon that has been observed in dolphins, but the behavior has yet to be quantified. Dolphins behave synchronously while travelling, foraging, resting, playing, mating, and as a fear response. Through microanalysis of videotapes, the current study examined the ontogeny of synchrony between a bottlenose dolphin and her newborn calf during the first 4 weeks of life. The pair maintained synchrony 97.7% of the time. The most common formation was touching trunk-to-trunk in echelon position. Suckling was first observed at 16 hrs of age and was associated with a period of increased chaos. Once suckling was established, higher levels of synchrony resumed, and the calf attained more freedom. It is theorized that milk is a reinforcer for synchronous behavior. Several functions of synchrony are proposed including energy conservation, increased vigilance, predator avoidance, and communication.

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