Social integration influences fitness in allied male dolphins

Livia Gerber, Richard C. Connor, Simon J. Allen, Kay Horlacher, Stephanie King, William B. Sherwin, Erik P. Willems, Samuel Wittwer, Michael Krützen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Understanding determinants of differential reproductive success is at the core of evolutionary biology because of its connection to fitness. Early work has linked variation in reproductive success to differences in age,1 rank,2 or size,3,4 as well as habitat characteristics.5 More recently, studies in group-living taxa have revealed that social relationships also have measurable effects on fitness.6–8 The influence of social bonds on fitness is particularly interesting in males who compete over reproductive opportunities. In Shark Bay, Western Australia, groups of 4-14 unrelated male bottlenose dolphins cooperate in second-order alliances to compete with rival alliances over access to females.9–12 Nested within second-order alliances, pairs or trios of males, which can vary in composition, form first-order alliances to herd estrus females. Using 30 years of behavioral data, we examined how individual social factors, such as first-order alliance stability, social connectivity, and variation in social bond strength within second-order alliances, affect male fitness. Analyzing the reproductive careers of 85 males belonging to 10 second-order alliances, we found that the number of paternities a male achieved was positively correlated with his cumulative social bond strength but negatively correlated with his variation in bond strength. Thus, well-integrated males with more homogeneous social bonds to second-order allies obtained most paternities. Our findings provide novel insights into the fitness benefits of polyadic cooperation among unrelated males and highlight the adaptive value of social bonds in this context.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1664-1669.e3
JournalCurrent Biology
Volume32
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 11 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This dolphin research was carried out on Gutharraguda, Malgana Sea Country, and we acknowledge the traditional owners of the region. We thank the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, Monkey Mia Wildsights, and the DBCA's Shark Bay Rangers for their continued support and assistance. We also thank all field assistants for their help during this study and the Genetic Diversity Centre (GDC), ETH Zurich, for their support in data production. This research was funded by a Swiss National Science Foundation grant (31003A_149956), Seaworld Research & Rescue Foundation (SWRRFI) Australia, National Geographic Society, A.H. Schultz Stiftung, Claraz-Schenkung, Julius-Klaus Stiftung, and the W.V. Scott Charitable Trust (all to M.K.). Further financial assistance was provided by grants from the Australian Research Council (A19701144 and DP0346313), National Science Foundation (1316800 and BNS 8601475), Eppley Foundation for Research, Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation, Francis V.R. Seebie Charitable Trust, US National Institutes of Health Fellowship, Fulbright Fellowship to Australia, Rackham pre-doctoral Grant, University of Michigan, and the University of Zurich. Conceptualization, L.G. and M.K.; methodology, L.G. and E.P.W.; investigation, R.C.C. M.K. L.G. S.J.A. S.L.K. S.W. W.B.S. and K.H.; writing ? original draft, L.G. and M.K.; writing ? review & editing, R.C.C. S.L.K. S.J.A. W.B.S. S.W. E.P.W. and K.H.; supervision, M.K.; funding acquisition, M.K. R.C.C. and W.B.S. The authors declare no competing interests.

Funding Information:
This dolphin research was carried out on Gutharraguda, Malgana Sea Country, and we acknowledge the traditional owners of the region. We thank the RAC Monkey Mia Dolphin Resort, Monkey Mia Wildsights, and the DBCA’s Shark Bay Rangers for their continued support and assistance. We also thank all field assistants for their help during this study and the Genetic Diversity Centre (GDC), ETH Zurich, for their support in data production. This research was funded by a Swiss National Science Foundation grant ( 31003A_149956 ), Seaworld Research & Rescue Foundation ( SWRRFI ) Australia, National Geographic Society , A.H. Schultz Stiftung , Claraz-Schenkung , Julius-Klaus Stiftung , and the W.V. Scott Charitable Trust (all to M.K.). Further financial assistance was provided by grants from the Australian Research Council ( A19701144 and DP0346313 ), National Science Foundation ( 1316800 and BNS 8601475 ), Eppley Foundation for Research , Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation , Francis V.R. Seebie Charitable Trust , US National Institutes of Health Fellowship , Fulbright Fellowship to Australia , Rackham pre-doctoral Grant , University of Michigan , and the University of Zurich .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier Inc.

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