Study Finds Male Dolphins Use Wingmen To Help Them Find Mates

Being a wingman is something we usually think of as being exclusively human. However, new research shows that humans aren’t the only ones who help each other find mates – dolphins do it too!

A new study published in the journal The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that male bottlenose dolphins work in groups two or three to win over an individual female.

Photo: Pexels/Jeremy Bishop

The research found that “male bottlenose dolphins form the largest known multi-level alliance network outside humans.” In other words, dolphins work together in complex ways to achieve a collective goal (like mating!).

For the study, researchers analyzed 121 adult male Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Western Australia.

According to a press release from the University of Bristol, study author Simon Allen said their research revealed just how important “wingmanning” is to the success of male dolphins finding a suitable mate.

Photo: Pexels/Enrique Hoyos

He said, “We show that the duration over which these teams of male dolphins consort females is dependent upon being well-connected with third-order allies, that is, social ties between alliances leads to long-term benefits for these males.”

The press release further noted that the dolphin alliances lead to “long-term benefits” for the males involved.

Study co-author Stephanie King compared the relationships that dolphins have to that of humans. He said, “Cooperation between allies is widespread in human societies and one of the hallmarks of our success.”

Photo: Raw Pixel

He went to say:

“Our capacity to build strategic, cooperative relationships at multiple social levels, such as trade or military alliances both nationally and internationally, was once thought unique to our species.

Not only have we shown that male bottlenose dolphins form the largest known multilevel alliance network outside humans, but that cooperative relationships between groups, rather than simply alliance size, allows males to spend more time with females, thereby increasing their reproductive success.”

Researchers can use the new-found information to better understand dolphin societies as well as human evolution and cognition!

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